Last-minute snag in Lebanon troops exchange with jihadists

11/29/2015 - 18:54 PM


Relatives of Lebanese security forces kidnapped by jihadists in 2014 watch for the anticipated release of their loved ones outside government offices in Beirut on November 29, 2015 -- but a last-minute snag held up the prisoner exchange (AFP Photo/Anwar Amro)


Beirut (AFP) - A last-minute snag on Sunday held up the release of Lebanese security forces detained for more than a year by the Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda, a security source told AFP.

"Obstacles came up at the last minute, delaying the releases after Al-Nusra Front came up with new conditions," the source said, on condition of anonymity.

The jihadists in August 2014 briefly seized control of the town of Arsal on the Syrian border and kidnapped dozens of Lebanese police and soldiers as they withdrew.

Four of the hostages have since been executed, leaving 16 alive in the hands of Al-Nusra Front and nine held by the Islamic State jihadist group.

According to security sources, a deal was reached with Al-Nusra for the release of the 16 in exchange for family members of jailed jihadists, including Saja al-Dulaimi, ex-wife of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and Ola al-Okaili, wife of Abu Ali al-Chichani, a Nusra commander who joined IS.

Lebanese authorities announced the arrests of the two women in December 2014.

But Al-Nusra has added names to the original list of detainees they want released in exchange for the 16 Lebanese soldiers, the security source said.

Prime Minister Tammam Salam called off a visit Monday to Paris, where he was to have taken part in an international conference on climate change, "to follow up" on the affair.




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