Results tagged “Lebanon”
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The Muslim Scholars Committee suspended its mediation efforts for the release of 29 Lebanese security forces kidnapped by the Al Nusrah Front and the Islamic State, citing the new role of an unnamed foreign actor in the negotiations. Abu Talal, a Syrian from Qusair who has represented the Islamic State in the negotiations, has taken over the command of the Fajr al-Islam Brigade, which was led by IS commander Imad Jomaa led before his capture by Lebanese forces in early August. Fajr al-Islam is said to be holding 11 Lebanese soldiers captive.
Abou Taymour al Dandashi, a Salafist militia leader who was arrested for his role in Tripoli clashes, was released from Roumieh Prison; judicial sources claimed he was not a militia leader. Government officials are refusing to divulge details of the negotiations for the release of security forces held captive by Islamist militants, but some say the captors are demanding the release of inmates from Roumieh Prison. The Muslim Scholars Committee has hinted it may withdraw from the negotiations.
Muslim Scholars Committee (MSC) negotiators reported that the Al Nusrah Front and the Islamic State have said they will release the remaining 29 kidnapped Lebanese security forces if Hezbollah withdraws all of its fighters from Syria. Another report claimed that the Qataris have become involved in the negotiations, and that Al Nusrah and the Islamic State have made different demands; it alleged that an MSC negotiator is related to the Islamic State's emir for Qalamoun, and that Al Nusrah is seeking the release of Abdullah Azzam Brigades captives.
The interrogation of Islamist commander Imad Jomaa was postponed after his lawyer submitted documents alleging that his confession and those of 42 other suspects arrested during recent clashes in Arsal were coerced. Sheikh Amama of the Muslim Scholars Committee said he decided to collaborate with Sister Agnes-Mariam of the Cross after she arranged the repatriation of over 2,000 Syrian refugees in Arsal. Military officials said intelligence work had led to the arrest of a large number of Islamic State militants across the country.
Sheikh Adnan Amama of the Muslim Scholars Committee said the Islamist militants still holding Lebanese security forces captive have issued a list of their demands; he said the government has asked that the details of the demands be kept from the media. Amama said the Islamic State holds 11 soldiers and a corpse, and the Al Nusrah Front holds 18 captive security forces after releasing two yesterday. Four members of a criminal gang led by a woman were arrested near Arsal for luring and killing eight people in order to rob them; the gang sold the stolen goods to the rebels. Hussein al Hussein, who operated the Twitter account for the so-called Free Sunnis of Baalbek Brigades, has confessed to inciting sectarian violence online and publishing claims of responsibility for terrorist attacks.
Two Lebanese security forces were released by their Al Nusrah Front captors after negotiations by the Muslim Scholars Committee. In return, the militants reportedly were assured that the "security grip on Arsal Syrian refugee camps will be eased." A negotiator, Sheikh Mustafa al-Hujeiri a.k.a. Abu Taqiyeh, said there may be more kidnapped security personnel as yet unclaimed by militants, noting that they had been divided among Al Nusrah, various ISIS brigades, and other groups. The Army arrested 12 suspected militants outside Arsal. Saudi Arabia said interference by the Islamic State and other groups with Lebanon's stability is a "red line." Lebanon has asked the US to provide fixed-wing aircraft for close air support in operations against jihadists.
The US issued a travel warning for Lebanon noting that the Islamic State, the Al Nusrah Front, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, and Hezbollah all operate there, and stressed the increasing frequency of suicide bombings. A Free Syrian Army fighter was arrested in Sidon. Assad regime forces warned residents of the border town of Tfail to evacuate to avoid being bombed; residents asked Lebanese forces for protection. Vandals destroyed the doors of a church in Zahle, the sixth attack on the church. The Muslim Scholars Committee and family members protested against alleged abuse of a Salafist sheikh while in prison.
Security forces arrested a 19-year-old Lebanese man in Baalbek suspected of operating the Twitter account of the so-called "Free Sunnis of Baalbek Brigade." Sheikh Adnana Amama, of the Muslim Scholars Committee delegation negotiating with the Islamists who kidnapped Lebanese security forces in Arsal, said the committee may withdraw from its mission given Lebanon's lack of receptivity to its efforts and the 'negative' reaction of the Al Nusrah Front to the military prosecutor's decision to issue terrorism charges against 43 suspects, including Imad Jomaa.
Lebanese Army chief Gen. Kahwagi said as many as 20 of the soldiers kidnapped by Islamists in Arsal are missing and possibly dead; 17 other security personnel were also taken captive. Former Free Syrian Army spokesman Ahmad al Qusair, the go-between in contacts of the Muslim Scholars Committee and the militants, said negotiations for the captives' release are at an impasse as the militants' demands will be too costly. Kahwagi said the outskirts of Arsal are still "relatively kidnapped" by the Islamists. The military prosecutor charged 43 jihadists, 33 of whom are at large, for terrorists acts during recent clashes with the Army in Arsal. Among those charged were Islamist commander Imad Jomaa, Al Nusrah Front spokesman Sirajeddine Zoraiqat, and other commanders from the Islamic State, Al Nusrah, and the Farouq Brigade. Up to 2,500 Syrian refugees are said to be stranded in the hills above Arsal. The head of the Tripoli jewelers' union denied reports that Salafists had threatened against the sale of Christian crosses and icons; Tripoli's mayor has banned alcohol ads, reportedly at the request of the Muslim Scholars Committee. The US said it would speed up military aid to Lebanon.
The Islamic State released a video of seven captured Lebanese soldiers; negotiations for the release of some 35 kidnapped security forces are said to be ongoing. The military court has received the cases of captured Islamist commander Imad Jomaa and nine other militants arrested during recent clashes in Arsal.
The head of Lebanese armed forces said the Islamic State had tried to set up a bridgehead in Arsal from which to attack Shiite areas and engulf the country in sectarian strife. French sources said that Saudi Arabian red tape has delayed the shipment of arms from France to Lebanon. The British ambassador conveyed the UK's offer to help the Lebanese military protect its borders by providing training and equipment.
Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji said the military's recent intervention in Arsal "saved Lebanon from a deadly sectarian rift," and said his priority now was ensuring the return of some 35 security forces abducted by Islamist militants. Palestinian ambassador Ashraf Dabbour claimed that Islamic State militants are not present in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.
Lebanese villagers near Kfar Qouq reportedly forced Islamist fighters back across the border into Syria after an armed clash with them. Gunmen ambushed Lebanese politician and Naharnet editor Naufal Daou in the Bekaa Valley town of al-Tibeh, opening fire on his car, but he managed to escape. Security forces arrested seven people from a Syrian refugee camp in Koura in connection with recent clashes between Islamists and the military in Arsal. Former prime minister Saad Hariri said he will make a $15 million personal donation to help Arsal residents rebuild.
Residents began returning to Arsal, and security was stepped up in the town, after Islamist militants withdrew following a ceasefire. Reports said that the Al Nusrah Front militants left town and the Islamic State militants crossed over into Syria. The militants are said to be holding at least 35 Lebanese security forces as hostages, divided between Al Nusrah and IS, and to be demanding the release of 20 Islamist prisoners, including Imad Ahmad Joumaa. An Islamist sniper was arrested in Arsal, and several persons were arrested at a Syrian refugee camp in Khirbet Daoud. Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri returned to Lebanon to head a Saudi-funded antiterrorism campaign.