Two members of the Internal Security Forces (ISF) who were detained by Syrian Islamist militants were handed over on Sunday by the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS) , according to local media reports.
They were identified as Moudin Hassan and Kamal Meselmani.
Hassan and Meselmani received a hero’s welcome in the Bekaa Valley by a large group of residents, who threw flowers and rice in honor of their release.
Hassan and Meselmani were first handed over to AMS in the mountainous area of the Beqaa town of Arsal, which witnessed fierce clashes earlier this month between the army and the militants. Then the Muslim Scholars handed the freed members to army intelligence, which in turn handed them over to ISF intelligence branch in Ablah , the Beqaa region
During a reception for the two freed men that was hosted by residents of the Beqaa town of Baalbek they ( the freed men) told the National News Agency that the remaining ISF hostages were being treated well by their captors.
“The ISF members in detention with the Al-Nusra Front are receiving good treatment, especially the [injured] among them, who have been provided with the necessary medication.” they told NNA
Islamist militants withdrew from Arsal on August 7 and redeployed along the border with Syria, after a series clashes with the Lebanese army that left 18 soldiers dead.
The fighting erupted on August 2 when militants stormed the town after the arrest of an Al-Nusra Front commander.
According to the Association of Muslim Scholars, the militants were holding 17 Internal Security Forces members in addition to 10 Lebanese army soldiers.
After the release of the two ISF members, 15 others remain in detention, as well as the 10 army soldiers.
The army has also reported that at least 20 soldiers are missing. LAF commander General Jean Kahwaji has said that some of the missing soldiers might have died in the clashes.
Tit for tat
In a related development the Lebanese Army arrested 12 Syrians who were allegedly involved in the Arsal clashes Sunday, following the release of the two ISF members .
The 12 Syrians were detained for trying to enter Arsal illegally through an eastern border crossing on the village’s outskirts, a security source told The Daily Star.
The suspects were not armed but are likely to be militants, the source said.
“The arrest of the militants may complicate the release of other kidnapped members from the Army and the ISF, especially since it followed the release of two ISF members which was done in goodwill,” Muslim Scholars Committee member Adnan Amama was quoted as saying.
“The militants may say: You see how the Army and the government reacted after we released two of their members.”
“Lebanese officials requested the release of as many captives as possible,” Amama said. “The release is meant to show a commitment to negotiations between the two parties.”
According to Amama, the militants are requesting better treatment for refugees and Arsal residents who were wounded during the clashes.
“They want security forces to stop treating residents and refugees as though they were all militants,” Amama said.
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