Nusra Plays Down Lebanese Govt. Optimism on Negotiations, Says Didn’t Vow Not to Kill Troops

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Nusra Plays Down Govt. Optimism on Negotiations, Says Didn’t Vow Not to Kill Troops
Naharnet/The Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front on Thursday poured cold water on recent optimism in Lebanon over the case of the captive troops, noting that it has not pledged not to execute more soldiers, only hours after the Lebanese government said it expects positive news “in the coming days.”
“Recent reports on Lebanese media outlets alleging that we have pledged not to kill any captive soldier are baseless, and no one is authorized to represent us or negotiate on our behalf,” the group said in a statement published on its official Twitter account.
“The Lebanese government is still arresting and torturing the Sunnis in Lebanon under the excuse of terrorism and Iran’s party (Hizbullah) is still killing, shelling and displacing the Sunnis in Syria under the excuse of defending the resistance, so what has changed?” Nusra wondered.
Addressing the Lebanese and the families of the captive troops, the extremist group said it has “several times repeated that there will be no negotiations until the situation of the town of Arsal is fully settled, the problems of the Syrian refugees are solved and those arrested there recently are released.”
“We have asked the Qatari delegate to carry these demands but we have not received any response from him until the moment,” Nusra added.
It revealed that it told the Gulf state’s envoy that it is “willing to free a number of captive troops in return for the Lebanese government’s release of Roumieh prison inmates” but only “after the aforementioned preliminary demands are executed.”
The group also warned that “anyone belonging to this military institution will pay the price in case of any future attack on the Sunni community.”
“Negotiations will not be important then,” it added.
Earlier on Thursday, Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi said “the cabinet renewed the mandate given to the crisis cell and (General Security chief) Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim in the case of the troops.”
“We have entered a new phase that requires silence,” he added.
Briefing reporters after the cabinet session, Information Minister Ramzi Jreij said Prime Minister Tammam Salam “noted that Eid al-Adha will be a sad occasion this year amid the difficult circumstances that the country is going through due to the killing, wounding and kidnapping of a number of the nation’s sons.”
“The cabinet discussed some items on its agenda as (Health) Minister (Wael) Abou Faour was meeting with the families of the captives (outside the Grand Serail), and he reassured them that the case is the government’s top priority,” Jreij added.
“Salam put the cabinet in the picture of the efforts that he is exerting to secure the release of the troops, hoping that the coming days will carry positive news in this regard,” the minister said.
“Salam noted that the Qatari state is playing an important and positive role in the ongoing negotiations,” he added.
Jreij also said that the ministers “stressed their solidarity with the families and that the negotiations should continue, while underlining the need to utilize all available means to secure the release of the captives.”
“The cabinet renewed its confidence in its premier, who is authorized to carry on with negotiations through all the available means and channels in order to liberate the troops,” the minister added.
He said the conferees also “underscored the need to keep the issue of the troops and the negotiations away from intensive and sensational media coverage, in order to preserve their safety and refrain from achieving the objectives of the takfiri terrorists.”
Jihadists from al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State group engaged in bloody gunbattles with the army in Arsal in early August and took with them around 35 hostages from the military and police as they withdrew from the town following a ceasefire.
The militants have executed three of them and are threatening to kill more hostages if the Lebanese government does not meet their demands.
The Islamist gunmen reportedly have a list of demands, including the withdrawal of Hizbullah from the battles in Syria and the release of ten Syrian inmates held at Roumieh prison in return for each captive soldier and policeman.