BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi dismissed reports that there is a haven for ISIS and Nusra Front militants entrenched along the Syria-Lebanon border.
“There is no safe passage nor a humanitarian [corridor] for the militants,” Kahwagi said in remarks published Wednesday. “This point did not exist in the [swap] deal.”
Sixteen Lebanese servicemen, held by Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front militants on the northeast border since Aug. 2014, were freed Dec. 1 in exchange for 23 Islamist prisoners, including the ex-wife of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Local media reported that the swap deal also called for the establishment of a humanitarian corridor with makeshift refugee camp sites around Arsal.
“Militants were never in the [northeastern border] town of Arsal, but on its outskirts at a distance between 5-8 kilometers,” Kahwagi told local daily Al-Akhbar.
He added that Arsal’s original population of 30,000 has multiplied to around 130,000, due to the influx of Syrian refugees. Even so, "the town is under the Army’s control.”
“We carry out raids and regularly arrest suspects with links to terrorist organizations.”