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Suicide attacker blows himself up at Lebanese army checkpoint after drawing suspicion, 3 dead

BEIRUT - A suicide attacker blew himself up at an army checkpoint after troops tried to search his car Saturday, killing at least three people including two soldiers in the latest blast linked to Syria's civil war, the military and the state news agency said.

The army said in a statement that the attack left a number of soldiers dead and wounded without giving specific figures. The National News Agency said three persons, including two officers, were killed and 15 of the wounded were rushed to three hospitals in the area.

The army said the bomber was driving an SUV and detonated his explosives when soldiers stopped him at the entrance of the northeastern town of Hermel.

"A number of soldiers were martyred or wounded as well as some civilians who happened to be in the area," the army said, vowing it would continue to pursue suspects.

"What happened today should make everyone cling to the military establishment and stand by it," it added. The army "will not stop confronting all those who try to endanger it, and Lebanon and will work to dismantle terrorist networks."

Humam Farhat, an official at the Assi Hospital in Hermel, told Al-Manar TV that they received five wounded of which three are soldiers.

Hermel is a stronghold of the Shiite Hezbollah group, and on Feb. 1, a suicide attack at a gas station in the town killed at least three people.

Footage aired on local TV stations showed fire engines spraying water on burning cars at the checkpoint, which is on a bridge over the Orontes river.

The troops have been on high alert searching suspicious cars for fear of more suicide attacks in Lebanon. Lebanese soldiers have arrested about half a dozen people suspected in planning bombings around the country.

On Wednesday, two suicide bombers blew up their cars near an Iranian cultural centre in Beirut, killing at least eight people and wounding scores, including children in an orphanage.

A series of attacks have struck Shiite areas in Lebanon over the past months, killing and wounding scores of people.

Al-Qaida-linked groups claimed responsibility for most of the bombings, saying they were retaliation for Hezbollah's involvement in the Syrian war alongside President Bashar Assad's forces. The Shiite militant organization has vowed to continue fighting in Syria.

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