BEIRUT — At least three Lebanese Army soldiers were killed Friday in a shootout as they tried to arrest a resident of a village that has become a hub of refugees and where Syrian rebel fighters often cross the border. Their target was also fatally shot.
There were conflicting reports about the nature of the clash, in which security forces were ambushed as they pursued a wanted man, but the episode played into fears that the accelerating influx of Syrians could spread the conflict into Lebanon.
The village, Aarsel, lies in the eastern Bekaa Valley, a mountainous region bordering Syria, and is a stronghold of support for the rebellion against the Syrian president, Bashar Assad. Syrian refugees who prefer to avoid areas of the Bekaa closely controlled by Hezbollah, an ally of Assad, have also crammed into the town.
In a statement, the Lebanese Army said that a captain was among those killed and declared without elaborating, ‘‘There will be no compromises on attempts to hide armed militants.’’
Some reports, citing unnamed security sources, said that the soldiers were attacked by Syrian rebels, while residents said that villagers chased down and attacked plainclothes security personnel who arrived to arrest a Lebanese suspect without coordinating with local leaders.
The suspect, a resident of Aarsel, was identified as Khaled Hummayed.
Lebanon’s national news agency said that Hummayed was wanted for involvement in the kidnapping of Estonian tourists in the Bekaa in 2011.
Several Lebanese media outlets said that members of the Free Syrian Army, the loose-knit rebel coalition, attacked the soldiers, while Reuters reported that Hummayed was believed to be a member of a jihadist rebel group that has been active in Syria, Al Nusra Front, who traveled frequently in and out of the country.