Hezbollah seized 3 Nusra commanders to trade for soldiers

Photo: Hezbollah seized 3 Nusra commanders to trade for soldiers
 / Arab World

Hezbollah has allegedly captured three senior commanders from the Nusra Front to exchange for captive soldiers, according to a report published Monday in Kuwait's Al-Rai newspaper.

The report said Hezbollah, which has been fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad forces against the Islamist rebels, seized the militants during battles inside Syria's rugged mountains of Qalamoun, straddling Lebanon's eastern border, The Daily Star reported.

"Such development might lead to a possible swap operation between Hezbollah and Nusra Front, which holds several Shiite Lebanese soldiers," the report said.

Nusra Front said in a statement Sunday that it was preparing to wage a battle to "liberate Qalamoun" from regime control and warned Hezbollah that it would kill the Shiite troops it held if the party's fighters participated in the battles.

A Hezbollah official, who requested anonymity, wasn't able to confirm or deny the report.

"We did not hear anything of the sort," the source told The Daily Star.

At least 29 Army troops and Internal Security Forces personnel were captured by militants from the Nusra Front and ISIS during a five-day showdown in the border town of Arsal last month.

At least 24 remain in the hands of the militants, following Sunday's release of five captives by the Nusra Front. The militants have submitted a list of demands to the government, including the release of Nusra commander Imad Jomaa, whose arrest had triggered the clashes in Arsal, and other Islamist prisoners.

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