Roumieh Prison is considered a hotbed for extremism due to the presence of high-profile Islamist inmates. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)
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BEIRUT: With the release of Islamist prisoners topping the demands of extremist militants holding security personnel in Arsal, a long-held suspicion was confirmed: ISIS has a stake in Lebanon, and the Roumieh prison lies at the heart of the matter.Both ISIS and the Nusra Front have claims on Roumieh Prison, Mario Abou Zeid of the Carnegie Middle East Center said. But the Nusra Front is steadily losing interest in the detainees because of reports that prisoners appear to be inclining toward ISIS's more hard-line ideology. The loyalty of these figures outside the prison's wall could provide ISIS with something it craves in Lebanon: a base.With its high-profile Islamist detainees, Block B of Roumieh is considered a recruitment hub for religious extremists, something Omar Nashabeh, an aide to former Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud called "prisonalization," which denotes adapting to one's environment behind bars.Of Block B's some 500-600 inmates, about 350 or so are considered national security cases.These vary from members of ISIS – recently interned after the Arsal clashes – to members of the Free Syrian Army, the Nusra Front and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades.
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