Lebanese army advances towards Arsal as Jihadists demand hostage swap – Al-Tahrir News Network

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According to Lebanese military sources, army troops have begun advancing towards Arsal, the last town before the Sunni-militant-controlled area near the Syrian border, in preparation for re-entry on Friday.

The army, which have been through major clashes with Jihadists, set up a military checkpoint on the western border of the city and are advancing gradually.

Municipal Council member Wafiq Khalaf confirmed that the army entered the town, but have not yet secured the area, adding that the situation is quiet at the moment with no engagement of any sort.

Islamist militants from Syria had taken over the town last weekend, the first seizure of this magnitude to take place on Lebanese soil, which prompted fear of further conflict spill-over.

The militants attacked military and police checkpoints in the area, following reports on Saturday that a man was arrested and accused of being a member of Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch.

Sunni clerics negotiated a truce with the authorities, allowing the withdrawal of militants in addition to releasing a group of military and police conscripts who were captured during the fighting.

Islamist militants are currently holding 19 Lebanese soldiers captive after the incursion in Lebanon on Friday. They demanded the release of Islamist prisoners in exchange for letting their captives go.

“It is simple: their soldiers for the Islamic hostages,” one of the militants told to Reuters.

Security sources explained that the Islamist militants have put forward around 20 names of militants they want released. The demands have been sent to both the Lebanese government and army.