QALAMOUN, Lebanon: Families and friends of security personnel captured by ISIS and the Nusra Front blocked roads across the country Monday to pressure the government to negotiate for the hostages’ release.
In the northern town of Qalamoun, the family of soldier Ibrahim Moghit blocked traffic with wooden palettes and overturned trash cans and piles of rubbish as the Islamists’ ultimatum expired.
“It’s the last day and the hardest day,” said his brother, Nizam Moghit. “We want to do everything that’s possible.”
In a video posted to YouTube Friday, some of the captive soldiers said they would be slaughtered if within three days the Lebanese government did not release over 90 Islamists held in Roumieh prison. Staring at the camera, the soldiers begged their communities to take to the streets and obstruct thoroughfares to draw attention to their plight.
A group of young men and boys from the Qalamoun area have been obstructing traffic throughout the weekend, sleeping in crude tents alongside the road.
“We’re putting pressure on the government to protect its army,” Moghit added.
“We’re not criminals. We’re not trying to hurt anyone. We just want the soldiers to come home,” he maintained. After one lane of traffic was open, security forces at the scene allowed the protest to continue and left the remaining roadblocks in place.
Moghit did not hesitate when asked if he thought the Roumieh prisoners, many of them convicted terrorists, should be released in exchange for the hostage soldiers.
“I think they should return the soldiers at any cost,” he said.
Like many of the families of the captive servicemen, who have been held hostage for nearly a month, Moghit expressed frustration with the Lebanese government’s response. “From what we can see, they’re not doing enough,” he said. “But there may be things going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about.”
Several other families closed roads Monday in response to the soldiers’ appeal.
The Msheik family closed the road of Shoueifat with burning tires.
The family issued a statement saying the barricade would be maintained on daily basis until all the captives were released.
Streets in Mhammara, Abdeh, Wadi al-Jamous, and the coastal road of Akkar were also blocked, according to the NNA.
While the release of five hostages over the weekend raised hopes that the remaining captives might soon be freed, the delivery of a body believed to be of soldier Ali al-Sayyed by ISIS to his family in Akkar Monday was a grim reminder of the alternative.
“We are scared,” Moghit said. – additional reporting by Edy Semaan