A Lebanese Soldier Supposed hostage dead since Arsal battles
Nidal al-Solh/Samya Kullab/The Daily Star
Nov. 22, 2014
BAALBEK/BEIRUT: A Lebanese soldier who was believed to have been kidnapped by jihadis during five days of clashes in Arsal in August was actually killed on the first day of battle, a General Security source told The Daily Star Friday.
Meanwhile, the family of ISIS hostage Ibrahim Mogheit conveyed new demands from the militant group after meeting the captive in Arsal’s outskirts, and a prominent clan figure responsible for repatriating bodies from militants said his work had been encumbered by Qatari mediator Ahmad al-Khatib.
“Director General of General Security Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim discovered during the negotiation process that Lance Cpl. Ali Qassem was actually killed during the first day of the Arsal battles,” security sources told The Daily Star, adding that Abbas had informed the soldier’s family about his death Friday.
His body is still being held by militants on the outskirts of Arsal.
Ibrahim sent a special delegation to deliver the news to the family, who reside in the east Lebanon village of Khreibeh. The family expressed anger and grief when they learned that Qassem had been dead for over three months without their knowing.
The General Security source explained that the soldier had clashed with the militants when they attempted to kidnap him and his colleagues at a checkpoint in Arsal. He had thrown a grenade toward the militants, the source said, but later succumbed to wounds sustained during the fighting.
In a phone call with The Daily Star, a relative of the soldier, who spoke on condition of anonymity, wondered why the family had been informed of Qassem’s death so late.
ISIS and the Nusra Front are holding 26 captives on Arsal’s outskirts. The groups have demanded the release of Islamists from Roumieh’s prison as a condition for their release.
The family of ISIS hostage soldier Ibrahim Mogheit traveled to the outskirts of the Arsal to meet him Friday, bringing back revised demands issued by the extremist group.
His brother Nizar told The Daily Star the captive was almost unrecognizable because of his physical condition, and that their meeting, organized by an Arsali go-between whom he did not name, had lasted 12 minutes, during which time Mogheit inquired about his wife and children.
“It took me 30 seconds to realize that it was him,” he said.
“I thought at first he was one of the militants. He’s morally and physically in a bad condition.
“The Islamic State militants told us that their demands are now five prisoners in Roumieh for every kidnapped soldier.”
Previously, the group had asked for 15. He said the militants had explained that they had reduced the number to move the negotiations along, but that the government had been slow to respond.
Nizar could not describe the journey on from Arsal’s Wadi Hmeid, where they were picked up by ISIS militants. “But at one point we went underground,” he said.
He described the area where the soldiers were being held as a grotto. “I don’t know where we were, we had to cover our faces.”
A prominent clan figure in Lebanon taking the lead on repatriating the bodies of soldiers and policemen from Arsal’s outskirts said his activities had been put on hold at the behest of Qatar, after its mediator Ahmad al-Khatib entered the negotiation process.
“The Qatari [mediator] after taking over the case, asked that Lebanese not be involved in the negotiations [with militants], which forced us to take a step back,” he told said.
“I was very close to getting the corpse of [soldier Abbas] Medlej, but unfortunately as soon as the Qatari mediator took over, our mission was stopped.”
Medlej was beheaded by ISIS in September, the second solider to be executed by the extremist group. The first was Sgt. Ali Sayyed.
The figure had also mediated the release of Mustafa Hujeiri, an Arsal local kidnapped by family members of soldier Mohammad Maarouf Hammieh, who was executed by the Nusra Front in September. Hammieh’s father had blamed the Hujeiri family for the soldier’s death.
“After the death of Hammieh, we intervened in the negotiations because we didn’t want to have any problems between clans,” the figure said. – with additional reporting by Edy Semaan