ISIS postpones beheading of seven Lebanese soldiers
Families and relatives of seven captive Lebanese soldiers received assurances that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) jihadist group will not behead their sons after they protested by burning tires and blocked roads Monday, a local daily reported.
The Daily Star Lebanon said the families have reopened roads across Lebanon after receiving assurances from the government that ISIS will not be beheading their sons Monday.
“Some calls were made, and the threat has been delayed,” the Daily Star quoted Health Minister Wael Abu Faour as telling reporters after he visited protesters near Beirut’s Saifi neighborhood.
He added: “We gained some time. I can only say that we gained some time, nothing more.”
ISIS had given 4 p.m. as ultimatum for the Lebanese government to revoke death sentences handed down to Islamists in Roumieh Prison in order not to execute the captives.
Four Islamist militants received life sentences, while a fifth was sentenced to death in absentia.
The beheading of U.S. aid worker Peter Kassig, announced by the extremists Sunday, further panicked those protesting.
“Oh God, I have no other son,” a mother of a captive soldier, Aisha Ahmad, weeping, told the Associated Press. “If they don’t release my son, I want to set myself on fire.”
ISIS and other militants in Syria seized some 20 Lebanese soldiers and police officers in August during a brief cross-border raid. They already have killed three of the captives, beheading two.
Monday’s demonstration began after militants threatened to kill more hostages unless the government revoked sentences handed down to Islamist prisoners Friday night.
Relatives of the captured men have surrounded the prime minister’s office in Beirut with protest tents, demanding the government negotiate faster.
“This decision threatens our children,” protester Omar Haidar said. “We will close all Beirut’s roads until our children are returned.”
They marched onto the city’s main plaza, blocking highways, including an east-west route linking Christian and Muslim neighborhoods. It was mostly shuttered during Lebanon’s 15-year civil war that ended in 1990.
Chain-smoking Marie Khoury, who wore a cross, blocked a road alongside a woman wearing a Muslim headscarf.
“Lebanese soldiers have no sect, they are for the country,” Khoury said. But the rare show of communal solidarity meant nothing for Lebanese, she said.