Lebanese families meet with Daesh, denied access to captives

Published August 18th, 2015 - 05:16 GMT

Twelve relatives of the nine Lebanese servicemen being held by ISIS (Daesh) were denied access to them Tuesday despite having a reached an agreement, one of the relatives told The Daily Star, dashing hopes for a rare meeting with their loved ones on the country's northeast border.

“We headed to the outskirts [of Arsal] as agreed with ISIS, but we were surprised that we were banned from meeting with them after spending three hours in the area,” Nizam Mgheit, the brother of soldier Ibrahim Mgheit, said.

He said the militants gave the families no specific reason for their sudden change of heart.

“They told us we couldn't see them over 'private reasons' in a very brief conversation,” Mgheit, overcome by disappointment, said. He added that the families were assured that their loved ones are well, despite not having seen them in 10 months or heard from them in eight months.

Mgheit said ISIS promised to inform them if they decided later on to allow for a meeing.

He pointed out that a mediator “from outside Lebanon” transported the 12 individuals to the outskirts.

The National News Agency had said earlier Tuesday in a one-line report that the relatives met with their sons.

The families entered Arsal's outskirts after three days of negotiations with the extremist group to allow for them to visit.

A security source told The Daily Star that radical Sheikh Mustafa Hujeiri, who is based in Arsal and has ties to extremist groups, helped broker a deal for the visit.

Sixteen servicemen are being held by the Nusra Front on Arsal's outskirts in addition to the nine held by ISIS. The captives held by Nusra have been in frequent contact with their relatives and have on several occasions been allowed to see them.

The families of the ISIS captives, however, have not been able to enjoy similar visits.

Relatives of four ISIS-held captives were allowed to see their sons roughly two months after they were abducted last August. The others have not met with their children since they were captured by the extremist group.

According to Hussein Youssef, the father of one of the captives, the families have not been in contact with their children in over eight months.

The relatives vowed last week to head to Arsal's outskirts and not return until they receive information on the fate of their sons.

The families of hostages held by Islamist militants continuously expressed disappointment with the state's course of action in the case.

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.

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