BEIRUT: The Syrian rebel group that kidnapped and recently released nine Lebanese hostages said Monday they have yet to receive the female detainees as per the swap deal struck with Turkish and Qatari mediation.
“We sent people to represent us and the families of the prisoners along with a delegation of Islamic scholars to receive the freed prisoners at a specified time in the Adnan Menderes Airport in the presence of the Qatar’s envoy to Turkey,” the Northern Storm Brigade, a Syrian rebel group, said in a statement.
“But until this now, we have yet to receive the detainees,” it added.
The Syrian brigade released nine Lebanese hostages last week, in exchange for the release of the female detainees being held in Syrian prisons.
The Lebanese were kidnapped in the Aleppo district of Azaz on May 22 of last year. Two were released in the following months.
In the statement, the kidnappers said the Lebanese had ties with Syrian Intelligence.
The swap deal also saw the release of two Turkish Airlines pilots who were abducted on Beirut’s Airport Road on Aug.9, a retaliatory measure against the kidnapping of the Lebanese pilgrims.
The Turkish nationals and the Lebanese returned home Friday.
General Security head Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim was negotiating with Turkish and Syrian authorities to release the Lebanese for months before Qatar decided to intervene.
The Syrian rebel unit said it was forced to speed up the exchange process after a Salafist rebel group took over their base.
"Due to the occupation of The Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria in most of our bases, we were forced to speed up the exchange deal and hand over the Lebanese hostages in one batch to the mediators,” the statement said.
It added that Turkey had given the brigade guarantees that the deal would be fully implemented.
The confrontation with ISIS, they said, had obstructed negotiations to release the Lebanese in batches in exchange for over 300 detainees.
“While the brigade congratulates Turkey on the return of the pilots, it affirmed the need to immediately free the prisoners and lessen the suffering of the Syrian people with their safe return to their families and children,” the statement said.
The Syrian rebels also denied having received a ransom in exchange for the Lebanese.
Lebanon’s caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said in remarks published Monday that the Syrian government has not yet released the female prisoners.
"I don’t think that the Syrians will break their promise ... The Syrians have different judicial, administrative and logistical mechanisms, and I think that the matter will be over in the next 24 or 48 hours,” he was quoted as saying.