Lebanon vows to wipe out militants

Sporadic gunfire disrupts the truce in a Palestinian refugee camp.

Published May 25, 2007

TRIPOLI, Lebanon - Lebanon's Prime Minister Fuad Saniora vowed Thursday to wipe out an Islamic militant group barricaded in a Palestinian refugee camp, raising the prospect that the army will either storm the camp, in what would likely be a bloody battle, or dig in for a long siege to force its surrender.

Sporadic gunfire, which grew heavier for a short period after nightfall, marred a two-day-old truce as the army moved troops around the Nahr el-Bared camp. But the troops did not attempt to advance, apparently giving time for negotiations and for the militants to comply with a government ultimatum to surrender or face a military assault.

Fighters from the al-Qaida-inspired Fatah Islam militant group, estimated in the hundreds, have barricaded themselves in the camp.

The renewed exchanges Thursday night illustrated the precarious nature of the standoff and the possibility of increased violence at any time. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice blamed the renewed gunfire Thursday on extremists trying to "sow discord" as she renewed the Bush administration's strong support of the Beirut government.

"It's just another example of extremists in the Middle East who are trying to destabilize democratic governments, " Rice said.