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Lebanon: Hostage families warn of escalation

THE LEVANT NEWS — BEIRUT: Families of the nine Lebanese soldiers still being held captive by ISIS have warned of escalatory measures in order to pressure the government into negotiating for their release, a relative of one of the soldiers said Wednesday.

“Our aim is to see the return of the nine soldiers and up till now everything is possible… Our options (to protest) are wide open,” said Nizam Mgheit, brother of hostage Ibrahim Mgheit, adding that the families refused the case be leaked in the media.

“The holidays for us (this year) come at a time of tragedy, which has become chronic… We understand the joy of the holidays for people, but we hope people can understand how we feel,” he added.

The Lebanese government announced earlier this month that it was ready to begin negotiating a possible swap deal with ISIS when the militant group was ready.

Families of the hostages say they haven’t heard anything for months, while officials report that the government’s contact with ISIS has been cut off for nearly a year.

The Syria-based extremist group has so far executed two of the soldiers it kidnapped in August 2014, when it briefly overran the northeastern border town of Arsal, along with the Nusra Front, Syria’s Al-Qaeda branch.

The brief takeover of Arsal, which came after the army arrested a prominent Nusra Front commander, led to a five day battle, before the military was able to drive the militants out towards the town’s outskirts. They have been holed up there since.

Nusra released 16 servicemen at the beginning of December, including soldiers and policemen, in a swap deal that saw Islamist prisoners from both Lebanon and Syria handed over to the militant group.

Source: The Daily Star

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