Reports: Qatar Mediator in Lebanon for Negotiations with IS over Held Troops
Efforts have been resumed to secure the release of the nine Lebanese troops who are being held hostage by the extremist Islamic State group, media reports said on Wednesday.
“Qatar's mediator Ahmed al-Khatib has reportedly arrived in Lebanon anew to seek negotiations with the IS militants in Syria's Qalamoun over the nine captive Lebanese army troops,” MTV reported.
Meanwhile, Hassan Youssef, the father of captive soldier Mohammed Youssef, told al-Jadeed television that “an unofficial channel of communication has been opened with the group.”
“We hope Mr. Nabil al-Halabi will be able to reach a solution for the case of the servicemen,” Youssef said.
Al-Halabi, a Lebanese lawyer and the director of the Lebanese Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (LIFE), had played a role last year in negotiations for the release of servicemen held both by the IS and the jihadist al-Nusra Front group, which is now known as the Fateh al-Sham Front after renouncing its status as al-Qaida's Syrian affiliate.
Al-Akhbar newspaper has on Tuesday quoted security sources as saying that contacts between the Lebanese state and the IS group have been severed for a long time now.
The contacts were cut off after the IS refused to give mediators any clue about the fate of the abducted soldiers, said the daily.
Al-Halabi himself said on his Facebook page that he had met an IS mediator three times before the negotiations to release the servicemen stopped.
The hostages' families vowed this week to resume their street protests to press authorities to address the case.
The fate of the nine servicemen has been shrouded with mystery for several months now and the families are demanding to know whether their sons are alive or dead.
The nine troops were among more than 30 servicemen who were abducted during the deadly 2014 battle between jihadists and the Lebanese army in and around the northeastern border town of Arsal.
While al-Nusra Front released 16 captives as part of a swap deal in December 2015, nine hostages remain in the captivity of the IS group and Lebanese officials have vowed to exert efforts to secure their release.