Lebanon News

Abu Faour receives jihadists' demands for hostage release

Relatives of the kidnapped soldiers erect a tent at Riad Solh square in Downtown Beirut, Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Health Minister Wael Abu Faour said Thursday that he had received a list of demands issued by jihadists holding 27 Lebanese servicemen hostage.

"I have personally received the demands of the kidnappers," he told reporters while entering a Cabinet session.

Earlier in the day, Abu Faour said that negotiations to secure the hostages' release were on the right track. "We have received some of the demands of the kidnappers," he said. "Everything is negotiable."

The minister, however, admitted that the process would take some time.

Head of the Higher Relief Committee Maj. Gen. Mohammad Kheir visited Thursday the families of the kidnapped soldiers at their protest site in Riad al-Solh Square near the Grand Serail.

After the meeting, the families told reporters that they have received positive news from Kheir. They said it was the first time they felt assured about the destiny of their sons since they were abducted nearly three months ago.

Kheir said the “ambiances are positive,” but refused to confirm or deny what Abu Faour said about receiving new demands. He announced that “the Qatari mediator Mohammad al-Khatib is expected to arrive with the written demands of the kidnappers.”

Abou Faour had not specified what the kidnappers’ demands were, in line with the government's policy of discretion over the matter.

But it has been widely reported that the jihadists from the Nusra Front and ISIS are calling for the release of Islamist prisoners in exchange for the hostages, taken during a five-day battle with the Lebanese Army in August in Arsal.

The families of the hostages briefly blocked the northern entrance of Beirut Wednesday over the government's failure to show progress in the case.

Abu Faour, who has been tasked with maintaining dialogue with the families, convinced the protesters to reopen the road after assuring them that negotiations were progressing.

Families of the hostages Wednesday had also blocked the Qalamoun highway linking Beirut and Tripoli for nearly a day before reopening it Thursday morning.

 

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