Interior Minister: Hostage mediator
to arrive within 24 hours

BEIRUT - Interior Minister Nohad Mashnouq announced Thursday that a Qatari delegate will arrive in Lebanon within 24 hours to mediate with the captors of the Lebanese army and security personnel taken hostage in Arsal, and said efforts are being made to decrease tensions.


“Information available so far suggests… that calls have been made today through those mediating with the two hostage-taking parties to calm matters and [ensure] continuation of negotiations,” Mashnouq told Lebanese broadcaster MTV in a video call from Russian capital Moscow during an official visit.


“Within 24 hours a delegate will be sent by the state of Qatar to follow up on the negotiations.”


“I hope that this information is accurate and firm, and that there will be no change,” he added.


On Tuesday a Twitter account apparently connected to Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate the Al-Nusra Front posted a message threatening to harm captive Lebanese soldier Mohammed Maarouf Himya in reaction to violations against Syrian refugees.


The threat to harm Himya comes after two Lebanese soldiers were beheaded in recent weeks by supporters of jihadist group the Islamic State. Videos showing the execution of Ali al-Sayyed and Abbas Medlej first appeared online and were later confirmed as authentic.


Some 30 Lebanese army and security personnel are currently being held hostage at an unknown location after they were captured during five days of clashes with the Lebanese army in the eastern Beqaa town of Arsal in early August.


Mashnouq also told MTV that he had visited Moscow to discuss the possibility of purchasing arms from Russia with money donated by Saudi Arabia.


“There are two main reasons for my visit to Moscow. The first reason is to try and investigate the possibility of the Internal Security forces in particular and General security buying military equipment from Russia as part of the Saudi grant.”


He added that he would also be discussing a previous Russian military grant “that was presented [at the time of] Saad Hariri’s cabinet and that has been frozen since that time.”


“We will also try to obtain a grant befitting the ISF and General Security from the Russian [government.]”

Within 24 hours a delegate will be sent by the state of Qatar to follow up on the negotiations.