State media: Suicide car bomber kills 3 at Hezbollah checkpoint in east Lebanon

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BEIRUT — A suicide car bomber killed three people at a checkpoint manned by the Shiite Hezbollah militia in eastern Lebanon Saturday evening, the state-run news agency reported, in another sign that the war in Syria is spilling over into its eastern neighbor.

The bomber detonated his explosives-rigged vehicle at the checkpoint about 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) from the Syria border near the town of Khreibeh, Lebanon's National News Agency said.

It wasn't immediately clear if the casualties were bystanders or Hezbollah fighters.

The last such suicide car bombing occurred in February. Since July 2013, dozens of people have been killed in more than a dozen suicide car bombings that have rocked the country.

The Saturday attack was likely linked to the war in Syria, as were the previous bombings.

Sunni militants, including the Islamic State group, have been trying to punish the Iranian-backed Hezbollah because its fighters are battling alongside forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad. They have claimed responsibility for previous bombings in Lebanon that have targeted Shiite communities.

The neighboring Syrian conflict has taken on sectarian overtones, with mostly Sunni rebels fighting to overthrow Assad. Minorities have remained neutral or back his rule, fearing for the fates of their communities should the Sunni rebels, including extremist jihadis, come to power.

The spillover from the Syrian war has raised sectarian tensions in the tiny Mediterranean country, as Sunnis and Shiites back opposing sides of the neighboring conflict. Tensions have ratcheted further in recent weeks, after militants from Syria overran a Lebanese border town, Arsal, in early August, capturing and killing soldiers and police. The militants, including the al-Qaida linked Nusra Front and the extremist Islamic State group, are holding some 20 Lebanese hostages.

At least two have been beheaded by Islamic State militants, sparking days of violence against Syrian refugees in Lebanon and tit-for-tat kidnappings between Sunnis and Shiites.

On Friday, attackers detonated a roadside bomb as a Lebanese army truck passed by on a road near Arsal, killing two soldiers and wounding three others.

Prime Minister Tammam Salam blamed jihadi extremists for the roadside bombing in a statement by his office.

The attack came after the army detained a Lebanese and two Syrians alleged to be part of a terrorist cell near Arsal. On Wednesday, jihadi gunmen crossed from Syria and snatched a Lebanese soldier.

The Islamic State group, which controls parts of Syria and Iraq, has also beheaded two Americans and a British citizen in recent weeks

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