Lebanese hostages released in prisoner swap

Lebanese hostages released in prisoner swap

The Lebanese army has received the body of a soldier killed by Syria’s al-Nusra Front fighters in the first part of a long-awaited prisoner-exchange deal.
More soldiers and police officers are expected to be handed over in the town of
Arsal on the Lebanese-Syria border throughout Tuesday.
They will be freed by al-Nusra Front in exchange for the release of prisoners held by the Lebanese government.
The body of the soldier left the Lebanese border town of Arsal on Monday morning in a convoy headed to Beirut.
Relatives of the dead soldier, Mohammed Hamieh, cried tears of joy after his body was transported to Beirut.
“Of course we are so happy to finally get [his body] back,” said one relative, tears running down her cheeks.
Family members have been camped out in downtown Beirut for over a year.
At least 16 soldiers and policemen, including two soldiers who were killed in captivity, were kidnapped by al-Nusra Front in Syria during deadly clashes in August 2014 in the border town of Arsal.
The prisoner exchange follows months of exhaustive negotiations. It includes dozens of prisoners held by Lebanese authorities and several captives from Syrian prisons.
The prisoner swap, which was sponsored and mediated by Qatar, saw the release of several prominent prisoners held in Lebanese prisons, including five women.
Among them are Jumana Hmayed, who was arrested for transporting “terrorists into Lebanon”, and Saja Dulaimi, former wife of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Dulaimi was arrested in November 2014 by Lebanese security forces in northern Lebanon, on charges of belonging to a terrorist group.
In June 2015, she gave birth in prison to a baby girl. Included in the exchange were her children who remained with her during her incarceration.


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