At least two Lebanese soldiers and a man suspected of links to an armed group have been killed during clashes with armed men near a border town with Syria.

"An army patrol was ambushed in the village of Arsal as it hunted a man wanted for several terrorist acts," the army said in a statement on Friday.

It said an army captain and soldier were killed while several others were wounded in the clash with an unspecified number of gunmen, who also sustained casualties.

"A number of military vehicles were badly damaged," the army said, adding that reinforcements were sent to seal off the area and hunt down the suspects.

An AFP correspondent saw ambulances leave Arsal located in Bekaa Valley and head for Baalbek, the main town in eastern Lebanon.

A security source earlier gave a death toll of five soldiers and a gunman for the clash.

The clash broke out after the army entered the area to arrest a man wanted on terrorism and arms smuggling charges, reported Al Jazeera's Rula Amin from Beirut.

Sources told Al Jazeera that the man had been killed during a the army's operation to arrest him, and that armed men had launched a retaliatory raid against the army unit later in the day.

"The army has sent its enforcement to the area, it's a very sensitive area, between Lebanon and Syria. Arsal itself is a town that is very sympathetic to the Syrian revolution. The Free Syrian Army [an armed rebel group] there has a lot of support. And it is known to be an area where it is very easy to smuggle weapons and people," reported Al Jazeera's Amin.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies