BEIRUT: Seventeen Syrians in east Lebanon escaped from a garage they were being held in by relatives of captured soldiers, a security source told The Daily Star Tuesday.
The Syrians were taken hostage by people who claimed to be families of soldiers captured by ISIS and the Nusra Front during last month's clashes with the Lebanese Army, said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
They stayed overnight in a garage in the village of Shmustar and were able to break the door and escape.
Media reports said the families held the Syrians to exchange them for the captured soldiers.
Meanwhile, the families of the hostages blocked the main northern Batroun-Tripoli highway at Qalamoun, calling for the speedy release of the remaining captives after the Nusra Front freed five soldiers Sunday.
Jihadists from ISIS and the Nusra Front are now holding at least 23 soldiers and policemen captive to trade them for Islamist prisoners held at Lebanon’s Roumieh prison. Five soldiers and policemen were freed earlier this week while the body of Ali al-Sayyed, who ISIS beheaded last week, was handed over to the Lebanese Army Monday.
In videos posted by the radical groups, the captive soldiers and police officers have pleaded with their communities to block roads in the country to pressure the government to negotiate with the Islamist fighters or they would be killed.
The gunmen are demanding the release of Islamist detainees in Roumieh Prison, most of whom have been held since 2007 over involvement in clashes with the Army in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared.
The government has decided to speed up the trials of the detainees and release those who have been in detention longer than any sentence they face.
According to judicial sources, the government is working through the Justice Ministry with the judiciary to find “a legal and judicial solution” for the cases of 94 Islamist detainees held in Roumieh prison since 2007, judicial sources said.