BEIRUT (AFP) – Lebanon’s army commander, General Michel Suleiman, led a tribute on Saturday to the 168 soldiers who died in this summer’s siege of Islamist militants holed up in a Palestinian refugee camp. September 2 is an honourable date in the history of the nation," he said of the day the siege of Nahr al-Bared camp ended with the defeat of fighters from Faah al-Islam, a group he called the "most important terrorist organisation" ever known in Lebanon.

The Al Qaeda-inspired group "had aimed to put in place an emirate in northern Lebanon after destroying the Lebanese state," he told military families gathered in a stadium in  Jounieh, 22 kilometres (14 miles) north of the capital.Various units of the army paraded in honour of their fallen comrades, whom Suleiman called martyrs, as combat helicopters flew overhead..

The 106 days of fighting over the camp, which included heavy army bombardment, virtually destroyed the camp. Most of the 31,000 residents of Nahr al-Bared fled during the first few days of fighting.Counting troops, militants and civilians, at least 400 people died.