BEIRUT, Aug 03, 2014 (AFP) - Eight Lebanese soldiers have been killed in clashes with gunmen in eastern Lebanon, near the border with Syria, which erupted after a suspected jihadist was detained, the army said Sunday.
In a statement, the army said its operations against the gunmen in the Arsal region continued into Sunday morning, adding that "during the battles the army lost eight martyrs and a number of others have been wounded."
The clashes began on Saturday afternoon after soldiers arrested a Syrian man who the army said admitted belonging to Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, Al-Nusra Front.
Gunmen angered by the arrest surrounded army checkpoints in the region, before opening fire on troops and storming a police post in the town of Arsal, security sources said.
Two civilians were reported killed in the storming of the police post, and local media said the gunmen had also taken hostage a number of policemen, though there was no immediate confirmation.
Earlier, the army said two soldiers had been briefly held by the gunmen, before troops were able to free them.
The army warned of the seriousness of the situation and pledged to respond in a "decisive and firm" manner.
"The army will not allow any party to transfer the battle from Syria to its territory (Lebanon)," it said.