Lebanese soldiers held by IS call for govt intervention

BEIRUT (AA) – Nine Lebanese soldiers held by the Islamic State (IS) militant group have appeared in a new video, appealing to their government to intervene and meet the demands of the group or they will be beheaded within three days.

A senior IS leader in Al-Qalamoun area on the border between Syria and Lebanon told Anadolu Agency, on the condition of anonymity, that the nine individuals who appeared in the video were all army troops.

“The prisoners are all army troops. They were originally eleven before one was killed on Thursday while another was not featured in the video but he is alive and in good health,” the source said.

The five-minute footage showed the nine prisoners sitting under the black flag of the Islamic State, a militant group that recently overran large swathes of both Iraq and Syria under its former banner of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The captured soldiers were abducted by gunmen – said to be IS militants – during clashes earlier this month in Arsal, a Lebanese town on the Syrian border.

In the video, a soldier who identified himself as Hussien Ammar from Akkar called on residents of his village to block roads to pressure the government to release the Islamist detainees from Roumieh prison within three days or the captured soldiers would be “immediately slaughtered.”

Another soldier, Mohamed Hussein from Western Beqaa, made a same request, while two other soldiers accused the Lebanese government of neglecting their ordeal since their capture earlier this month.

Abbas Madlaj, a Shiite, called on coreligionists to “intervene” or “we would be doomed to beheading.”

Other soldiers made similar appeals to their families to intervene and exert pressure on the government to meet the group’s demand for the release of Islamist detainees.

The Lebanese authorities are yet to comment on the video.

On Tuesday, IS threatened to begin killing one captured Lebanese soldier every three days if Hezbollah wasn’t excluded from prisoner-exchange talks between it and the Lebanese government.

Days later, a 1.5-minute video surfaced, showing the beheading of one of the captured Lebanese soldiers.

“We have asked the crusading Lebanese army not to obey the orders of Hezbollah before,” a militant said in a statement before the beheading. “If you [the Lebanese army] continue to torture Sunnis, your other soldiers will meet the same fate as this one.”

The violence in Arsal broke out earlier this month after IS gunmen attacked security and army sites in the town. They also abducted Lebanese troops in retaliation for the recent arrest of a rebel leader.

At least 17 Lebanese troops were killed in the violence, which also destroyed several camps that cater to thousands of Syrian refugees, prompting many of the latter to flee.

Along with the influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees, Lebanon has been hard hit by the conflict in neighboring Syria.

The country has also witnessed a recent surge in militant attacks in response to Hezbollah’s role in the Syria conflict, where the Shiite militant group continues to fight alongside Syrian regime troops.

 

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