Lebanese military, al-Nusra to exchange prisoners
Al-Nusra Front is Al-Qaeda's Syria affiliate. (AFP Photo/Fadi al-Halabi)
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The Lebanese military has reportedly freed a number of militants with the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front in exchange for the Syria-based group to release over a dozen of the Lebanese soldiers it held captive in 2014.
According to media reports on Sunday, the Lebanese military swapped 16 al-Nusra militants with 16 of its soldiers, who had been in the militant group’s captivity since August 2014. The exchange took place in a district between the town of Baalbek and the village of Labweh, both located in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa Province.
Lebanese forces had tightened security in the area before the exchange took place, the reports added.
The Lebanese army had also suspended any entry into and exit from two checkpoints in the area, where the swap was taking place.
Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen television channel also reported that the kidnappers of the Lebanese troops had asked a Qatari mediator for international guarantees for a safe passage from the town of Arsal.
Authorities in Lebanon have not made any comments on the reports so far.
Militants affiliated with the al-Nusra Front and the Daesh militant group have been active on the outskirts of the Lebanese town of Arsal, located on the border with Syria.
The terromilitants rists briefly overran the Lebanese border town in August 2014. However, the they later withdrew from the area but took several dozen Lebanese army and police forces hostage, some of whom have since been executed.
Lebanon is gripped by the spillover of militancy in neighboring Syria.
The conflict in Syria, which started in March 2011, has claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people and displaced some 11 million people - about half the country's pre-war population.
Editor's note: This article has been edited from the source material