‘Islamic State’ threatens to kill captured Lebanese troops

BEIRUT (AA) – The so-called “Islamic State” militant group on Tuesday threatened to begin killing one captured Lebanese soldier in Syria every three days within 24 hours if Lebanon’s Shia Hezbollah group was not “excluded” from negotiations over exchanging the soldiers for Islamist prisoners in Lebanon, according to a group statement.

The Islamic State, which recently seized control of parts of Iraq and Syria, accused Hezbollah of “carrying out criminal acts, such as burning refugee camps, forcible displacements and arrest campaigns” against residents of the Lebanese town of Arsal near the Syrian border, with the aim of obstructing negotiations between the group and Lebanese authorities.

“Within 24 hours, we will kill the first soldier among those we have captured; we will kill one more every three days if [Hezbollah] is not excluded [from negotiations] and if the Lebanese government does not begin to seriously seek a solution to the crisis,” the statement read.

“We urge the Lebanese state not to be the reason for the soldiers’ death,” it continued.

Arsal has seen intense fighting between the Lebanese army and militants, who are believed to have come from Syria in early August.

At least 17 Lebanese troops have been killed and 86 others injured in the fighting.

The violence broke out after gunmen – said to be rebels from Syria – attacked security and army sites in Arsal and abducted a number of citizens and troops in retaliation for the arrest of a rebel leader affiliated with an extremist group fighting in Syria.

The violence left several refugee camps that accommodate thousands of Syrian refugees in ruins, prompting many of the latter to flee the town.

Apart from the flow of hundreds of thousands of refugees into its territory, Lebanon has been hard hit by the civil war in neighboring Syria.

The tiny country has witnessed a surge in militant attacks in recent months in response to Hezbollah’s role in the Syrian civil war, where the Shia militant group has fought alongside the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

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