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Posted: 8/16/2007 2:31:35 PM EDT
Lebanese helicopters pound besieged militants
Thu Aug 16, 2:58 PM ET
Lebanese army helicopters pounded positions in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp on Thursday in a bid to quash Islamist militants who have been holed up there for close to three months.

Two helicopters dropped four bombs while two others hovered nearby, an AFP correspondent reported.

Aerial bombardments have become a prominent feature of the army's campaign against the militants of Fatah al-Islam over recent weeks.

"We are using air strikes as shelling them with tank fire is no longer effective or sufficient," said an army spokesman, who did not want to be named.

"We are trying to clear the small area around where the Islamists are holed up so that our tanks and military equipment can get through," he added.

Army commander in chief General Michel Sleimane said on Tuesday that only around 70 Fatah al-Islam fighters are left in the camp, dug in to subterranean shelters that the military is trying to break through.

Most of the 31,000 refugees for whom the camp was home fled at the start of the fighting which began on May 20 and which has killed more than 200 people, including 136 soldiers. It is not known how many Islamists have died.

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