Mourners carry the coffin of Mohammed Hammiya (portrait), a Lebanese soldier executed in 2014 by Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate Al-Nusra Front, during his funeral in his village Taraya in the Lebanese Bekaa valley on December 4, 2015. AFP PHOTO / STR
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The northeastern Arsal region is occupied by Islamist militants and any military operation to liberate it would plunge Lebanon into the Syrian war, Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk warned Friday.The minister spoke three days after 16 servicemen, held captive for 16 months, were released by the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front as part of a swap deal brokered by Qatar that also freed a number of Islamist prisoners from Lebanon and Syria.However, the deal did not include nine soldiers still held hostage by Daesh (ISIS) in caves on the outskirts of Arsal near the border with Syria. Militants from the Nusra Front and Daesh captured 37 soldiers and policemen when they briefly overran Arsal in August 2014 . Machnouk visited the General Security headquarters to congratulate Ibrahim and the agency's officers and personnel on the release of the 16 servicemen – 13 policemen and three soldiers.
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