Hezbollah fighter freed in prisoner swap

Lebanon-based group says Imad Ayyad was freed in exchange for two fighters, believed to be from al-Nusra Front.

    Hezbollah has said one of its members has been released in exchange for two fighters [Hezbollah Media Relations]
    Hezbollah has said one of its members has been released in exchange for two fighters [Hezbollah Media Relations]

    Lebanon's Hezbollah movement has said one of its members, captured in Syria by al-Qaeda's affiliate there, has been released in exchange for two fighters held by the Shia armed group.

    "Prisoner Imad Ayyad has been freed, in exchange for two members of al-Nusra Front who were being held by Hezbollah, after weeks of negotiations," the group's television channel reported on Tuesday.

    Hezbollah confirmed the swap in a later statement without mentioning al-Nusra.

    It said Ayyad was exchanged for two "armed men", without specifying when he had been captured.

    A Hezbollah source, meanwhile, flatly denied any al-Nusra involvement in the deal, referring instead to Ayyad's kidnappers as "gunmen in Qalamun", a Syrian region bordering Lebanon.

    Hezbollah is allied to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, and has sent thousands of fighters to support his army's bid to quell a nearly four-year revolt across the country.

    The Lebanese group has played a key role in fighting around Damascus, especially in Qalamun.

    The prisoner swap comes as Qatar-mediated talks try to secure freedom for 27 Lebanese soldiers held hostage by al-Nusra and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group since August after a fierce battle for the border town of Arsal.

    Three soldiers held by al-Nusra and ISIL have already been executed.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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