Muslim Clerics Hand PM a Videotape of Several Arsal Hostagesإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
The Muslim Scholars Committee handed the premiership a videotape showing seven of the hostages taken by jihadists who overran the northeastern border town of Arsal earlier this month.
Sheikh Husam al-Ghali told several local stations about the move. It was not clear if the militants were making demands to release the captives – around 35 soldiers and policemen.
An Nahar newspaper published on Wednesday said negotiations between the clerics and the Islamist gunmen is ongoing through mediators or Skype.
It said there are no direct negotiations with the armed men.
A security source expressed fear in comments published in the daily that the matter will not end soon as the kidnappers don't have clear, specific or unified demands.
“The state can't negotiate with a group of armed Islamists on the freedom of inmates, which jeopardizes the judiciary,” the sources said.
Media reports said that the armed men are seeking to exchange the security personnel with Islamist prisoners, who are held at Roumieh prison's Bloc B.
The fighting between troops and extremist fighters broke out on August 2 when jihadists from Syria attacked army and police posts in Arsal after the arrest of a militant accused of belonging to the al-Qaida affiliate al-Nusra Front.
The committee's spokesman Sheikh Adnan Imama told the newspaper that “negotiations are tough.”
“We might have to withdraw from intervening in the negotiations if the cabinet remains on its steadfast stance,” Imama added.
He pointed out that the geographical features of the area and the movement of the armed men are delaying negotiations.
“Our delegation is tired and in danger and the response is usually delayed two or three days,” Imama noted.
“We are trying to form a clearer image of the demands of the gunmen.”
A political source told An Nahar that new mediators will start negotiating with armed men on the release of the captives.
Officials and political leaders, in addition to Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji, had voiced their complete rejection to negotiate with gunmen despite the efforts carried out by the Muslim Scholars Committee.