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Lebanon loses bargaining chip in prisoner exchange deal

By arresting the former wife of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the wife of a top Syrian jihadist, many fear that Lebanese authorities have lost crucial leverage in retrieving the country’s kidnapped soldiers from Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State.
Masked gunmen man a checkpoint in Bazalia village, home of Lebanese soldier Ali al-Bazzal who was killed by Nusra Front, on a road that links Arsal to Baalbek December 6, 2014. Syria's al Qaeda offshoot Nusra said on Friday it killed captive Lebanese soldier al-Bazzal in retaliation for the arrest by Lebanese authorities of women identified as wives of Islamist militants. The soldier was one of more than two dozen members of the security forces taken captive by militants affiliated to the Nusra Front and Is

On the evening of Dec. 5, Jabhat al-Nusra issued a statement announcing the execution of Ali al-Bazzal, a Lebanese army corporal. According to the statement, this execution came as a response to the Lebanese army’s unfair detainment of “the sisters,” a reference to Saja al-Dulaimi, former wife of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and Ola al-Oqaili, the wife of the Syrian top jihadist Anas Sharkas, better known as Abu Ali al-Shishani.

The heinous crime shook the consciences of all Lebanese and put Lebanon more than ever in the eye of the storm, given the sectarian reactions it produced in a country on the edge of strife. This crime revealed retaliatory and even instinctive intentions, especially after the authorities’ failure to resolve the crisis of the kidnapped Lebanese soldiers detained since Aug. 2 by the Islamic State (IS) and Jabhat al-Nusra.

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