Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate on Tuesday handed Lebanese authorities the body of a soldier it executed last year, in the first stage of a delicate hostage exchange deal, authorities said.
The transfer appeared to be the first step in a complex negotiation under which Al-Nusra Front is expected to free 16 Lebanese servicemen it holds in exchange for Lebanon releasing prisoners and handing over aid.
“In the framework of the follow-up in the case of the kidnapped soldiers held by Al-Nusra Front, and as the result of negotiations on the issue, General Security and the Lebanese Red Cross received the body of the martyr soldier Mohammed Hammiya,” Lebanon’s general security body said in a statement.
Hammiya was one of several dozen Lebanese soldiers and policemen kidnapped by Al-Nusra and the Islamic State group from the eastern border town of Arsal in August 2014 after the jihadists crossed over from Syria.
The Lebanese government and Al-Nusra announced in September 2014 that he had been executed by Al-Nusra.
Al-Nusra Front later freed the 16 Lebanese servicemen in exchange for 25 prisoners and handing over aid.
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