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Lebanese hostage families frustrated by government inaction Open in fullscreen

Thaer Ghandour

Lebanese hostage families frustrated by government inaction

Relatives of those held captive have staged protests in Beirut [AFP]

Date of publication: 13 December, 2014

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Phone conversation obtained by al-Araby al-Jadeed shows hostage families blame members of government for the deaths and ongoing hostage status of soldiers captured by Nusra Front and the Islamic State group in Arsal.

A representative for the families of kidnapped Lebanese soldiers has expressed his frustration at government inaction to free them, the recording of a telephone conversation obtained by al-Araby al-Jadeed shows.

The conversation is between a man who identifies himself as Hussein Youssuf, "from the hostage families", and Hussein al-Hujairi, the leader of a militant group in Arsal where dozens of soldiers were kidnapped in August by the Islamic State group and the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda's affiliate.

Hujairi, who is also acting as a mediator between the Lebanese government and the hostage-takers, tells Youssuf that his efforts to free the soldiers had been hindered by members of the Lebanese government.

The conversation appears to have taken place on the evening of 28 November, when Nusra threatened to execute the Lebanese soldier, Ali Bazal.

"There are good people in our government who want the issue to be closed but unfortunately they face obstacles they are unable to overcome," the voice identified as Hujairi says on the tape.

     I told them no one took action to stop the bloodshed except Sheikh Mustafa al-Hujairi.
- Voice identified as Hussein Youssef

Youssef replies: "We took some steps, Prime Minister [Tammam] Salam reacted to these steps... he was very upset and he banged his hand on the table and said, 'I will solve the hostage crisis even if I empty Roumieh prison in spite of everyone'."

Hujairi responds: "This is just talk... there are no good intentions any more... we've run out of time."

Youssef again answers: "I told them no one took action to stop the bloodshed except Sheikh Mustafa al-Hujairi."

Terms for Bazal's release were not met, and he was killed days later.

The Lebanese government has been criticised for not doing enough to free the group of soldiers held by Nusra and the IS group, missing deadlines and rejecting terms demanded by the militants for the soldiers' safe return.

Relatives of those held have held mass protests in Beirut calling on the government to strike a deal for their safe return.

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