Hundreds rally for Lebanon’s captive servicemen/Nusra, ISIS appoint new Lebanon hostage mediator

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Nusra, ISIS appoint new Lebanon hostage mediator: report
The Daily Star/Dec. 14, 2014
BEIRUT: The kidnappers of Lebanon’s 25 captive soldiers and policemen have appointed a new mediator to conduct negotiations with the government, Al-Jadeed television reported Sunday. The channel, citing unnamed sources, said the Nusra Front and ISIS selected Sheikh Wissam Masri last Wednesday to communicate their demands to Lebanon. The news came a week after Qatar withdrew its mediator who had been tasked with the negotiations. Al-Jadeed said Masri had delivered new demands by the captors to Lebanese intelligence agencies, but that the government had not yet responded. The new demands include the release of the ex-wife of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the wife of ISIS commander Anas Sharkas, better known by his nom-de-guerre Abu Ali al-Shishani. Nusra and ISIS are still holding at least 25 servicemen hostage on the outskirts of the northeastern town of Arsal.

Hundreds rally for Lebanon’s captive servicemen
Nizar Hassan/The Daily Star
Dec. 14, 2014
BEIRUT: The families of Lebanon’s 25 captive soldiers and policemen slammed the government Sunday for failing to bring back their men, threatening to take matters into their own hands.
“This is a failed government that cannot bring the sons of its institutions back to their mothers,” Omar Haidar, a member of the captives’ families committee told hundreds of people at a solidarity rally for the hosNusra, ISIS appoint new Lebanon hostage mediator tages in Downtown Beirut.
Haidar criticized lawmakers for agreeing to extend their own mandates and “insulting the Lebanese people’s dignity,” but failing to stop the killings captive servicemen.
“The baby who was born while his father was absent will ask you, Mr. Prime Minister: What have you done to my father?” Haidar said, warning that the families have trusted the authorities for too long, and that their patience was running out.
“We will become [like] ISIS if we have to,” he said, suggesting they would resort to violence.
Hecklers booed and shouted for several minutes after MP Naji Gharios from the Change and Reform bloc took the podium, which led to the intervention of security guards, highlighting the level of animosity among the families towards the government.
But Gharios resumed his speech after the crowd calmed down, telling them that he considered the captives his relatives too, and that his bloc never stopped supporting them.
Speakers from organizations representing a variety of religious groups addressed the crowd of supporters who held banners in support of the Army and security forces, as well as pictures of the captives.
The speakers stressed on the unity between the different communities of Lebanon around the cause, and called for a quick solution that can put an end to the ongoing crisis and bring back the hostages alive.
“We should not thank those who attended today, because this is the minimum of their duties,” TV host Rima Karaki said, speaking at the gathering. “We should rather name those who did not.”
“We have done very little to deserve this Army,” Karaki said.
Pastor Tony Khadra, head of a Christian NGO called Labora, urged the creation of a shadow cabinet to monitor the authorities’ performance on the crisis.
Such a shadow government, he said, must include figures from parties and groups who are not represented in the Cabinet, especially NGOs and civil society activist groups.
Among the visitors of the families were a group of student representatives belonging to various political parties who spoke in support of the families and their actions, calling on authorities to intensify their efforts.
Sabrina Krumba, the wife of captive Ziad Omar, recounted to the crowd the story of Ali Bazzal’s killing as told to her by her husband when she visited him recently in Arsal’s outskirts.
She said Ali was called in during the morning like each time the kidnappers had threatened to kill him, but he was not expecting to actually be murdered that day.
“Do not have lunch without me, I’m coming back. I come back every time,” he told his fellow captives before being taken out of their holding room.
Krumba explained that her husband and the hostages have become almost hopeless, and have lost trust in the government’s ability to free them.
“Our government has left us. It has given us up,” she quoted her husband as saying.
The angry speaker compared ministers to mummies, saying they only cared about their posts in the cabinet and lost all sense of compassion.
“You are not Lebanon, we are Lebanon,” she said, addressing the government. “We will bring them back if you fail to.”

Hezbollah, FPM against Salafist group leading hostage negotiations: report
The Daily Star/Dec. 14, 2014
BEIRUT: Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement are wary over the prospect of allowing a Salafist group lead negotiations over the release of Lebanon’s 25 captive servicemen, a report said Sunday. Kuwaiti daily Al-Seyassah quoted sources close to the parties as saying they were against the Muslim Scholars Committee being tasked by the Lebanese government to handle the case after Qatar ended its mediation last week.
However, a March 8 source told The Daily Star that the report’s content was false, and that Hezbollah did not make such a statement. Regardless of Hezbollah’s “well known stance” toward the Muslim Scholars Committee, the source added, the party has not voiced any objection to tasking the committee with the negotiations, and the government has not yet discussed this issue.
Also Sunday, Al-Jadeed TV reported that the Nusra Front and ISIS have assigned a new mediator, Sheikh Wissam al-Masri, to carry out the negotiations after Qatar pulled its negotiator last week. Qatar’s move came as a result of the killing of policemen Ali Bazzal by the Nusra Front earlier this month. The Muslim Scholars Committee asked the government to formally put the group in charge of the file after Qatar quit. But the government has yet to issue a decision. The servicemen have been held hostage by Nusra and ISIS militants on the outskirts of the northeastern border town of Arsal for more than four months.