Lebanese hostage families meet with Hezbollah leader

Published September 3rd, 2015 - 03:53 GMT
Sixteen Lebanese servicemen are still being held by Nusra Front. (AFP/File)
Sixteen Lebanese servicemen are still being held by Nusra Front. (AFP/File)

The delegation from the families of 16 servicemen who are held by the Nusra Front met with Hezbollah deputy chief Naim Qassem Wednesday, the uncle of hostage Mohammad Taleb told The Daily Star Thursday.

“We didn’t announce the meeting because we didn’t receive any information regarding the case,” Talal Taleb, Mohammed’s uncle said.

Taleb said that Qassem informed the delegation that only the state could deal with the case, emphasizing that Hezbollah cannot intervene in their case.

“If we were requested to conduct any endeavor we won’t fall back ... but we don’t want to intervene,” Taleb quoted the Hezbollah official as saying.

Qassem reportedly informed the delegation during the meeting that General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim is “their only reference.”

Taleb revealed that a deal was underway three months ago to release the hostages but the Nusra Front backed down on the agreement “for unknown reasons.”

Sixteen servicemen are being held by the Nusra Front on Arsal's outskirts in addition to the nine held by ISIS (Daesh). 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.

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.

Taleb said that the families of captives held by ISIS were informed about the meeting but they decided to boycott it.

“We were informed (during the meeting with Qassem) that ISIS isn’t opening any communication channels.”

A source close to the families of ISIS-held hostages told The Daily Star that “circumstances prevented the families from participating in the meeting.”

“We are keen to keep discreet any information ... any leaked detail could harm them (the captives),” the source said.

The families of ISIS-held hostages headed to Arsal in August in hopes to meet with the captive men, but their efforts were fruitless.

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