Qatar halts mediation to free Lebanese soldiers

The mother (C) and family members of Lebanese soldier Ali al-Bazzal, who was killed by Syria's al Qaeda offshoot Nusra, mourn his death in his hometown Bazalia village December 6, 2014.

The mother (C) and family members of Lebanese soldier Ali al-Bazzal, who was killed by Syria’s al Qaeda offshoot Nusra, mourn his death in his hometown Bazalia village December 6, 2014.

Qatar has halted its bid to broker the release of Lebanese soldiers and policemen captured by Islamist militants during a raid on a Lebanese border town in August, saying its efforts had failed after one of the captives was killed.

Militants affiliated with the Nusra Front and the al-Qaeda offshoot Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group took captive more than two dozen members of the Lebanese security forces during the August incursion.

The Nusra Front said on Friday it had killed one of them in retaliation for the arrest by Lebanese authorities of women identified as wives of Islamist militants.

Qatar had previously helped mediate the release of hostages held by Nusra, al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in the Syrian war.

“The (Qatari) Foreign Ministry announced that it was no longer possible for Qatar to continue its efforts to free the Lebanese military personnel who were kidnapped in August from the environs of the town of Arsal,” the ministry said in a statement posted on its website on Sunday.

The ministry said its decision was based on the failure to secure the captives’ release. It also expressed regret over the latest death – the fourth of the captives killed since August.

The SITE intelligence monitoring center said in November that Nusra Front had proposed to a Qatari negotiator freeing the Lebanese captives in return for the release of Islamist prisoners held in Syria and Lebanon.

Lebanese authorities said last week they had detained a wife of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the wife of a Nusra front leader.

Lebanese media have reported that the women were viewed by some Lebanese officials as a possible bargaining chip with the militants to gain the release of the captive soldiers.

 
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