Lebanese army says it is controlling the borders

The Lebanese army said in a statement it was controlling the borders with Syria to prevent arms-smuggling and the movement of armed groups.

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BEIRUT // After reports of Syrian troops planting landmines along its boundaries and incursions into Lebanese territory, the Lebanese army said it was controlling the borders to prevent arms-smuggling and the movement of armed groups.

"The Army Command would like to clarify that its units intervene immediately to deal with any violation that takes place," said a statement on Monday. "The army is pursuing the mission to control the border and prevent smuggling and the infiltration of armed groups."

The comments came after both the US State Department and the United Nations condemned the Syrian incursions into Lebanese territory.

Last week, the State Department said the US was "deeply concerned" by reports that Syrian dissidents may have been "captured and possibly killed" in the frontier regions.

An estimated 5,000 Syrians have fled across the border into Lebanon to escape the government's violent response to pro-democracy protests that began in March.

There were also increasing reports of deserters from the Syrian army seeking refuge in Lebanon, along with opposition activists.

The latest cross-border incidents have increased tension along Lebanon's boundary with Syria and increased fears that the violence that has left more than 3,000 people dead in Syria could spill across the border.

Meanwhile, there were further reports that landmines were being planted by the Syrian military along the Lebanese border.

The Associated Press said yesterday that an anonymous Syrian official claimed the mines were meant to prevent weapons being smuggled into Syria.

"Syria has undertaken many measures to control the borders, including planting mines," the official said.

The AP also reported that a senior Lebanese security official confirmed that Syrian troops had planted mines on the Syrian side of the border but said Beirut would not interfere in actions on neighbouring territory.

A refugee who fled into Lebanon several weeks ago said mines had been planted at some of the main access points into northern Lebanon used by those fleeing the violence in Syria.

The man said at least four Syrians, who were apparently not trying cross into Lebanon, had been injured in recent days after mines exploded.

The army did not warn people that the area was mined, he added.

"It's very hard now to come to Lebanon from Syria," he said in a Skype conversation. "People in Syria will face a very big problem."

* With additional reporting by the Associated Press