Nusra Front offers prisoner exchange deal for Lebanese hostages

Published July 19th, 2015 - 05:56 GMT

The Nusra Front will free three hostages if the Lebanese government releases five female prisoners detained in Lebanese prisons, Nusra Front commander for the Qalamoun region Abu Malek al-Talleh told the captive's relatives Saturday.

Video footage broadcasted by MTV Saturday showed the Nusra commander telling a visiting delegation of the captives’ relatives that negotiations had been stalled for two months. However, Talleh said he was willing to restart talks if two conditions were met.

The first involves the release of five female detainees from Lebanese prisons. The women include Saja Dulaimi, the ex-wife of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and terror suspect Joumanna Hmayed, who was caught driving a car rigged with 50 kilograms of explosives last year.

In return, the Nusra Front will release servicemen George Bezeyaa, Pierre Geagea and one other man.

The second condition involves securing two safe zones in Syria for fighters fleeing the Qalamoun region, where Hezbollah and the Syrian army have been waging a campaign to oust rebels from the area near the Lebanese border.

“The hostages will remain with us on the outskirts until these families in the Qalamoun can return to Syria,” the Nusra commander told the families, asserting that the Lebanese government should be responsible for Hezbollah’s intervention in the area.

Three vans carrying families of captive servicemen returned from the outskirts of the northeastern border town of Arsal, after visiting their loved ones on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr.

Televised interviews with the families as they entered the Lebanese border town revealed that the captives were all safe and receiving good treatment.

Saturday’s visit comes one day after Talleh extended the invitation to the families. Male members of Shiite families, however, were banned from joining the others.

The Nusra Front holds 16 Lebanese soldiers and policemen captive on Arsal's outskirts, while ISIS holds another nine.

Another delegation of the families of servicemen held hostage by ISIS headed Friday to the outskirts of Arsal for talks with prominent figures in the town, in hopes of receiving a similar invitation. The families were not granted permission to meet with their captive relatives but were notified that they are doing well.

"We tried to talk to anyone who could help, but unfortunately nothing came of it," Hussein Youssef, the father of captive serviceman Mohammad Youssef, told the Daily Star.

The servicemen were kidnapped when the extremists briefly overran Arsal in August last year.

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