BEIRUT: The Nusra Front denied Sunday involvement in the Arsal clashes in east Lebanon, and said detained battalion commander Imad Jomaa was not a member.
“We have entered Arsal to fix the situation and relieve the wounded, and we have not been engaged in direct clashes with the Army so far,” said a Twitter account affiliated with the Nusra Front in the Syrian border village of Qalamoun.
“Many groups clashed along some border crossings after one of their leaders, called Mahmoud [Imad] Jomaa, was arrested,” the post read. “And he does not have any links to the Nusra Front.”
The arrest of Jomaa was believed to have instigated the clashes, however Army chief Jean Kahwagi has since denied the claim, saying the unrest was premeditated.
According to the account, after the groups, which it did not name, “were able to take control” of many Army bases, “the Army bombarded... the camps, and then the interior of the town, resulting in deaths and wounding tens of people.”
The account said that the Nusra Front was “ready to leave Arsal as soon as possible if the issue was settled,” stressing that the group’s intervention was meant to “support the oppressed.”
Despite claims that they were not fighting in Arsal, the account embedded Youtube videos through a channel called “The Nusra Front,” which posted a video showing “approximately 20” Lebanese Internal Security Forces members allegedly “defecting from the Lebanese Army and Hezbollah.”
The ISF members were reportedly kidnapped earlier in Arsal, and photos of them being transported in the back of a truck with 3 armed Islamist militants them went viral on social and mainstream media.
The Twitter account posted a video belonging to the same Youtube channel, allegedly showing civilians wounded in Arsal, claiming Hezbollah bombarded the town.