BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army saved Lebanon from jihadists before they could declare their own state, Lebanese Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi said.
"The Army saved Lebanon from killer ‘sectarian strife-seekers’ by the Arsal battle,” Kahwagi told local newspaper As-Safir in remarks published Monday.
“Had the Army lost, they [jihadists] would have entered Akkar, and from there they would have reached the sea and declared their own state," Kahwagi warned.
Kahwagi called for the “safe” handover of the soldiers being held captive by Islamist militants following a five-day battle with the Lebanese Army in the northeastern border town of Arsal.
“Priority goes to the safe handover of the captured soldiers no matter how dearly this would cost us,” he said, warning that he had little tolerance for delay.
“This issue cannot be postponed,” he stressed. “I have informed the political leaderships of [this decision].”
Jihadists from the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria overran Arsal Aug. 2 after the arrest of Islamist commander Imad Ahmad Jomaa by the Lebanese Army.