Mashnouq Says 'Secrecy' Needed to Ensure Safe Release of Arsal Captives

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Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq stressed on Monday the importance of “secrecy” regarding the case of the security personnel, who were taken hostage by Islamist gunmen in the northeastern border town of Arsal.

“Efforts are ongoing on all levels to ensure the safe release of the abductees,” Mashnouq said in comments published in As Safir and An Nahar newspapers.

He pointed out that he cannot “reveal the details of the case as secrecy is very important in these circumstances.”

The Mustaqbal official expressed relief over the security situation in Lebanon, considering it “under control.”

“My priority now is Arsal where the crisis didn't end yet.”

Several soldiers and policemen were abducted by the Islamist militants in Arsal at the end of clashes between the army and the gunmen in the town earlier in August.

The fighting broke out on August 2 upon the arrest of a member of the al-Qaida-affiliated al-Nusra Front.

Asked about the Muslim Scholars Committee's decision to suspend its mediation with gunmen to release the captives, Mashnouq said: “Neither the kick start of negotiations neither the suspension should have been announced to the public.”

“The Committee is thanked for its endeavors and it did its best.”

On Friday, a delegation from the Muslim Scholars Committee announced that it was suspending its negotiation efforts to release the captives, saying that it will pave the way for other initiatives to that end.

Regarding reports on gunmen entering the town of Arsal on Saturday and threatening residents who support the army, the Interior Minister said that the “incident was contained,” describing it as “limited.”

“It is part of a crisis that didn't end yet.”

“We are seeking to comfort the relatives of the kidnapped men and all statements about the case will harm them,” Mashnouq remarked.

On Saturday, nine kidnapped security personnel appeared in a video broadcast by the jihadist al-Nusra Front, calling on Hizbullah to withdraw its fighters from Syria.



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