SIDON :  Lebanon's army has seized control of the headquarters of a radical Sunni sheikh whose supporters have battled the military for two days, killing 16 soldiers, an AFP correspondent at the scene said.

Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir's whereabouts are unknown, added the journalist, who accompanied troops into the complex in Abra, near the southern city of Sidon. The correspondent saw abandoned weapons inside the cleric's headquarters, among them rocket launchers and machineguns, as well as military clothing.

Some of the flats in the complex were still burning as troops moved in. The area sustained heavy damage in two days of fighting that broke out after Assir's supporters attacked a checkpoint, the army said.

The AFP journalist saw bodies on the ground, some of them scorched. Troops said it was unsafe to remove them from the area for fear that they may have been booby-trapped.