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Al-Nusra Front  fighters
Al-Nusra Front fighters
The Al-Qaida linked al-Nusra Front has demanded control over two towns held by the Syrian regime near Lebanon and the release of five women from Lebanese jails in return for freeing the captive Lebanese servicemen, a spokesman for the families of the Lebanese hostages said on Monday.

“Al-Nusra’s emir in Syria’s Qalamoun, Abou Malek al-Talli, has sent a new demand with the families who visit their sons every now and then in the vicinity of (the Lebanese border town of) Arsal,” Hussein Youssef, the father of captive soldier Mohammed Youssef, told Turkey’s state news agency Anatolia.

Al-Talli wants “control over the towns of al-Maara and Flita and the release of five women from Lebanese jails in return for freeing the captives who are in his custody,” Youssef said.

He revealed that the families had passed on the new demands to Prime Minister Tammam Salam during their meeting with him on Monday.

“We have full confidence in the premier and in General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim and High Relief Council chief Maj. Gen. Mohammed Kheir, who are following up on the case with notable seriousness,” the spokesman added.

Asked about the families’ channels of communication with al-Nusra Front, Youssef said the messages are being exchanged through “mediators.”

He however noted that contacts have been severed with the extremist Islamic State group for months now.

“We don’t know anything about our sons who are in the custody of this group,” he added.

The towns of al-Maara and Flita are currently under the control of the Syrian regime and Hezbollah, according to Anatolia.

Al Nusra and IS militants briefly occupied the town of Arsal in August 2014 after gunbattles with the Lebanese army and captured several dozen hostages from the army and police, four of whom have since been executed.

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