Beirut, Dec.01: The Lebanese army and militants from the al-Qaeda-affiliated Takfiri group al-Nusra Front have exchanged prisoners on Tuesday.
The swap on Tuesday took place under a Qatari-mediated deal that secured the release of 16 Lebanese soldiers and policemen held captive since August 2014, when the terrorist group kidnapped them during an attack in Lebanon’s border town of Arsal. The al-Nusra terrorists have killed four captives in that time span.
In exchange, the Lebanese government set free 13 militants, including Saja al-Dulaimi, the ex-wife of the so-called leader of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group Ibrahim al-Samarrai, also known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
“We accomplished the entire agreement with al-Nusra. We received our heroic soldiers and we are on our way back to Beirut,” said Abbas Ibrahim, a senior Lebanese security official who supervised the prisoner swap.
Ibrahim, meanwhile, said Beirut was willing to strike a similar agreement with Daesh, which is believed to be holding nine Lebanese soldiers.
“This joy [is] not complete until the return of those kidnapped by Daesh. We are ready to negotiate with Daesh if we find someone to negotiate with,” he said.
The exchange started when Lebanon’s Red Cross received the body of a Lebanese soldier believed to be Mohamed Hamieh, one of the four slain troops, from al-Nusra. The body was handed over to officials from the Lebanese National Security Agency in the village of Labweh, located about 124 kilometers (77 miles) northeast of the Lebanese capital, Beirut.
DNA tests are expected to be conducted to verify the identity of the dead soldier.
The government of Qatar launched a mediatory effort over one year ago for the release of the Lebanese captives. Qatar is widely believed to be a major supporters of militants fighting in Syria.
Lebanon has been suffering from terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda-linked militants as well as random rocket attacks, which are viewed as a spillover of the conflict in Syria.