Syria jihadists free 5 Lebanese soldiers
The five Lebanese hostages released by the Nusra Front were being reunited with their families Sunday morning, as concerns grow over the fate of the remaining 24 soldiers and policemen being held by Syrian militants.
Soldiers Ibrahim Shaaban, Ahmad Ghieh and Wael Darwish were reunited with their families in Arsal Sunday morning, according to the state-run National News agency.
The three, along with ISF member Saleh al-Baradei and soldier Mohammad al-Qaderi, were turned over to Sheikh Mustaphan al-Hujeiri by the Nusra Front Saturday evening in the border village of Arsal.
The five appeared on LBC TV Sunday morning, thanking Hujeiri for his efforts to secure their release and expressing gratitude over their safe arrival to Arsal. One of the freed hostages said that they received good treatment by their captors, highlighting that they were never assaulted or abused.
With the release of the five, all Sunnis, Nusra Front and ISIS are still holding 24 soldiers and policemen taken captive during battles with the Lebanese Army at the beginning of August in Arsal.
In announcing Saturday’s release, which Nusra said was done without any ransom being paid, the captors ruled out following suit with the remaining captives.
The statement clarified that a military operation in Qalamoun is set to start in a “few days”- during which the army death toll could rise as a result of Hezbollah’s intervention.
The statement also warned that the delay in the release of Christian hostage troops was a result of Free Patriotic Movement Michel Aoun’s “recent acts.”
The militant group said that Aoun’s alignment with Hezbollah has denied Christian troops a “freedom from abduction” and a “return to their families.”
The gunmen from ISIS and Nusra Front are demanding the release of Islamist detainees in Roumieh Prison, a request the government has implicitly rejected.
In a video posted on YouTube Saturday, ISIS threatened to slaughter the soldiers unless the Lebanese government acted to release Islamist detainees, a day after a man, claiming to be a member of the radical group, posted a picture showing the alleged beheading of a soldier.
Families of the remaining hostages are blocking the Labweh road in protest.