BEIRUT, Dec 1 – Al Qaeda’s Syrian wing, the Nusra Front, released Lebanese security personnel held captive since August, 2014 in a swap deal that will also release an ex-wife of Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, live TV footage showed on Tuesday.
A first group of five captives were handed over and seen boarding a Red Cross vehicle. A total of 16 Lebanese soldiers and policemen are set to be released under the Qatari-mediated deal, in addition to 13 Islamist prisoners including Saja Al Dulaimi, the ex-wife of Baghdadi.
The Lebanese captives were driven to the place where the exchange was due to take place in vehicles accompanied by masked men armed with assault rifles who were chanting “God is great”, footage broadcast by Al Jazeera TV showed.
A convoy of vehicles including Red Cross cars were also shown approaching the area. Three women including one in a full face veil who was carrying a baby were shown getting out of a vehicle. Dulaimi gave birth in prison.
The Nusra Front seized the Lebanese during an attack on the border town of Arsal mounted together with the Daesh in August 2014. The jihadist group is believed to be holding nine soldiers not included in the deal.
Earlier, the body of a Lebanese soldier killed in captivity by the Nusra Front was handed over to the Red Cross and the Lebanese security agency, General Security, the state news agency reported,
A security source said the return of the body of Mohamed Hamieh was the first step in the deal. The National News Agency said Hamieh’s body was handed over as a result of the negotiations. He was one of four soldiers the Nusra Front has killed after capturing them in the Arsal raid.