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Lebanon and al-Nusra Front complete prisoner swap near border

Al-Nusra Front released 16 Lebanese soldiers in exchange for the release of Islamist prisoners [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 1 December, 2015

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Sixteen Lebanese servicemen captured by al-Nusra Front last year were freed Tuesday in exchange for Islamist prisoners including the former wife of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
much-hyped prisoner swap between the Lebanese government and an al-Qaeda-linked Syrian rebel group - al-Nusra Front - took place on Tuesday morning, al-Araby al-Jadeed has learned.

Sixteen Lebanese servicemen captured by Nusra on the northeast border - more than a year ago - were handed over on Tuesday at a meeting point on the outskirts of Arsal in exchange for Islamist prisoners.

The servicemen are now in the hands of the Lebanese authorities, Lebanon's General Security service (DGSG) has anounced.

The DGSG thanked all those who helped make the deal a success, and pledged to work tiressly to secure the release of the remaining soldiers held hostage by the Islamic State group (IS).

Earlier, ambulances from the Lebanese Red Cross set off to the meeting point, where they were to take injured Nusra fighters for treatment.

As part of the swap, Lebanon is will grant a number of fighters safe passage.

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, the DGSG had received the body of Lebanese soldier Mohammad Hamieh, who was executed by the Nusra last year, as part of the deal.

The body was taken to a hospital in Lebanon to have its identity verified.

After four days of preparations and last-minute talks with the al-Qaeda group, Beirut was expected to receive the kidnapped Lebanese servicemen in return for releasing a number of Islamist detainees, including five women.

The Lebanese government will reportedly deliver food and logistical supplies to the rebel group, as part of the deal.

While the deal puts an end to the plight of kidnapped Lebanese servicemen held by Nusra, other soldiers continue to be held hostage by IS for more than a year now.

There has been virtually no communication with the kidnappers or the hostages since December 2014.

The Syrian armed groups kidnapped the servicemen in a raid on the restive Lebanese border town of Arsal in August 2014, after the Lebanese authorities arrested a Syrian rebel leader.

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