BEIRUT: Political intervention by Lebanese parties has apparently prompted Syria to retract a decision to turn over suspects in April's deadly attack against a Lebanese Army patrol, media reports claimed Wednesday. Lebanese nationals Fayyad Ismail, Hassan Abbas Jaafar and Mohammad Ali Jaafar were arrested by the Syrian authorities after crossing the country's border with Turkey on Saturday night. Syria told Lebanon it would return the men but retracted the decision after "pressure" from the Jaafar clan, An-Nahar newspaper reported.
In April, gunmen opened fire on a Lebanese Army vehicle as it passed through Riyaq, a district near Zahle. The soldiers, Zakaria Ahmad Habla, Mahmoud Ahmad Marroun, Khoder Ahmad Suleiman and Badr Hussein Badr Baghdadi were thought to have been deliberately targeted. A fifth, identified by security officials as Major Allam Donia, survived. Hassan Jaafar is suspected of masterminding the attack.
The attack on the unsuspecting soldiers was supposedly carried out as retribution for the death of Ali Abbas Jafaar, a senior figure in the Jafaar family's drug empire. He was killed by Lebanese troops in March after refusing to stop his stolen car at a checkpoint near Baalbek.
Lebanon has issued an arrest warrant for Hassan Jaafar as well as seven other suspects.