Officials welcomed on Tuesday the release of the servicemen that were kidnapped by the al-Qaida-affiliated al-Nusra Front, while hoping that efforts will be made to ensure the release of the hostages still held by Daesh.
Health Minister Wael Abou Faour paid a visit to the sit-in held by the servicemen's families in downtown Beirut, pledging that the “state will not waver in exerting efforts to release the remaining hostages.”
Head of the Mustaqbal Movement MP Saad Hariri declared via Twitter: “We thank all those who contributed to the release, especially Qatar.”
“We congratulate the servicemen on their return to freedom and to their homeland. This is a joyous occasion for all the Lebanese and a victory for the perseverance of the army and security forces against all pressure,” he added.
These sentiments were echoed by Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq, who said: “The seriousness of the General Security did not go in vain and its efforts resulted in the release of the abducted soldiers.”
For its part, the General Security said in a statement: “We will spare no effort to bring back the servicemen kidnapped by the IS.”
Marada Movement chief MP Suleiman Franjieh meanwhile congratulated the Lebanese people on the release of the servicemen and hoped the rest will be freed as well.
Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi told al-Jazeera television: “Today we close the chapter of the servicemen held by al-Nusra Front and hope to focus attention on ones held by the IS.”
The AMAL movement later said: “The joy on this day remains lacking given that some hostages are still being held by the IS.”
Sixteen servicemen held by the al-Nusra Front were released earlier on Tuesday through a Qatari-mediated deal that included the prisoner swap with the extremist group.
They were released on the outskirts of the northeastern border town of Arsal after 15 months in captivity.
They were abducted in the wake of clashes between the army and the Daesh and al-Nusra Front in Arsal in August 2014.
Four of the hostages were executed, while nine are still being held by Daesh.
By M.T. and D.A.
Editor's note: This article has been edited from the source material
Naharnet © 2021