Tourism hubs in Lebanon a target for protests by hostage families

Published August 4th, 2015 - 11:18 GMT

The families of 25 Lebanese servicemen being held hostage by Islamist extremists on the country's northeastern border threatened Tuesday to stage demonstrations near the country’s tourist destinations, in protest of the government’s perceived inaction over the year-long ordeal.

“We are evaluating the possibility of staging movements in touristic centers and demonstrating in front of them,” Nizam Mgheit, the brother of captive servicemen Ibrahim Mgheit warned Tuesday.

“The government is faced with two options. Either it returns the captive servicemen or it moves us off the streets as corpses,” he said, almost one year after the hostages were abducted during the five-day battle in Arsal that pit the army against Nusra Front and ISIS (Daesh) militants.

Mgheit said that the families have “had enough,” accusing the government of “extreme negligence” in handling the case.

Hussein Youssef, father of captive servicemen Mohammad Youssef, told The Daily Star that the families have yet to agree on dates for the next round of protests.

“We will hold contacts with Lebanese officials and see what information we can receive and based on this we will decide when to escalate,” he noted.

Youssef said that the families have only received “sympathetic tears” from the Lebanese population but have not sensed any concerted efforts to secure the captives' freedom.

The 25 captives were among more than 30 Lebanese security personnel initially abducted during a battle sparked when ISIS and Nusra Front militants stormed Arsal last August.

Since then, ISIS has beheaded two, Nusra shot dead two others, and eight were released.

Officials over the past year have repeatedly said that negotiations to secure the release of the captives were on track, and on some occasions indicated that their release was imminent.

But so far, nothing has materialized, and the families complain that they are being kept in the dark over the case's progress.

Of the 25 captives, 16 are being held by Nusra, and nine by ISIS.

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