Conflicting Reports on Fate of Lebanese Detainees as IS Seizes Palmyra Prisonإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Conflicting reports emerged Thursday about the fate of dozens of Lebanese detainees at the prison of the Syrian city of Palmyra, after the Islamic State jihadist group seized control of the facility from the regime's hands.
Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq denied having any information about the issue after media reports claimed that the IS had “liberated” Lebanese detainees from the Palmyra prison, noting that he was still trying to verify the allegations.
For her part, Wadad Halawani, head of the Committee of the Families of the Kidnapped and Missing in Lebanon, described the reports as “inaccurate” and “unconfirmed,” in remarks to LBCI television.
Sky News TV had earlier in the day quoted Lebanese Islamic activist Ahmed al-Ayyoubi as saying that the IS had set free the Lebanese detainees who had been at the prison and that they “could head to Turkey,” describing Ayyoubi as an adviser to Mashnouq.
But Mashnouq's press office clarified that Ayyoubi is not an adviser to the minister, noting that he had only “volunteered” to play a mediation role between Mashnouq and some Lebanese Muslim clerics as part of efforts to “consolidate civil peace in the city of Tripoli.”
LBCI said the reports sparked a state of confusion among the families of the Lebanese detainees.
MTV had quoted the so-called Palmyra branch of the Islamic State as saying that “27 Lebanese detainees were freed from the Palmyra prison, including 5 Christians who had been in the regime's prisons for more than 35 years.”
Speaking by phone to MTV, Ali Abou Dihn, head of the Association of Lebanese Detainees in Syrian Prisons, said he had not yet obtained any information about the fate of the prisoners, confirming that Lebanese detainees had been held at the facility for more than 35 years.
He said most of them had been sent to the prison in the eighties and early nineties of the last century.
Citing a tally by the association, Abou Dihn said there are 628 Lebanese detainees in all Syrian prisons.
Jihadists from the Islamic State group seized full control of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra earlier on Thursday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The Britain-based monitor said regime troops had pulled back from positions in and around Palmyra, including from the aforementioned prison, an army intelligence outpost and a military airport.
The Palmyra prison is notorious for the killings of hundreds of prisoners at the hands of the regime in the 1980s and seen as a symbol of oppression during the reign of late Syrian president Hafez Assad.
Since IS launched its assault on the city on May 13, at least 462 people have been killed in fighting, the Observatory said, including 71 civilians, some of whom were executed by the jihadists.