Qatar ends effort to free Lebanese soldiers

Qatar ends effort to free Lebanese soldiers
Lebanon is searching for new way to free soldiers captured by al-Nusra Front, following breakdown of Qatari efforts.
2 min read
11 December, 2014
The families of the abducted soldiers set up roadblocks in Lebanon [Getty]

Negotiations to secure the release of Lebanese soldiers abducted in August by al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State group (IS, formerly known as ISIS) have hit a wall. At least 21 soldiers are entering their fifth month of imprisonment after being captured in Lebanon near the Syrian border. Four have already been killed.

On Monday, the Qatari foreign ministry issued a statement saying it was halting its mediation attempts "due to the failure of these efforts".

"Mediation efforts were carried out for humanitarian reasons based on Qatar's concern for the preservation of innocent lives, and after our brothers in Lebanon asked us to help."

The end of Qatari mediation highlights confusion in Lebanon over the issue. A high-level Lebanese official told al-Araby al-Jadeed there was "internal chaos if not conflict over management of the issue".

     The government lacks unity over how to... negotiate for the soldiers' release.
- Unnamed Lebanese official

"Every department and group has its own agenda, and the government lacks unity over how to manage the case or negotiate for the soldiers' release," said the official.

A senior officer in the Lebanese general security directorate said the Lebanese prime minister, Tammam Salam, would only allow Major General Abbas Ibrahim, the director of the general security directorate, to direct negotiations.

"We are constantly surprised at the different groups that try to get involved. They put him [Ibrahim] in charge, and then place obstacles in his way," said the officer.

He also revealed that Ali al-Bazzal, one of the soldiers, was executed hours after the government's crisis committee decided to hold direct negotiations with the hostage-takers over a potential exchange of prisoners.

The Nusra Front announced it had killed Bazzal on 5 December, in revenge for the Lebanese army's arrest of Ola al-Oqaili, wife of Anas Sharkas, a Nusra commander and their children. Saja al-Dulaini, reported to be a wife of Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was also reportdly captured in the same raid.

Ibrahim visited Damascus about a week ago to ask Syria to approve the release of 50 women prisoners, the officer told al-Araby. This came after Nusra agreed with the Lebanese government to exchange each soldier for five prisoners held in Lebanon's Roumieh prison, as well as 50 female prisoners currently held in Syria.

Lebanese military and political sources said the Qatar mediation failed because "the mediator had nothing to offer".

This is article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.