BOD­IES EX­CHANGED AS PART OF BOR­DER PACT

Windsor Star - - WORLD -

BEIRUT Hezbol­lah and a Syr­ian af­fil­i­ate to al-Qaida ex­changed the bod­ies of dead fight­ers along the Le­banese-Syr­ian bor­der on Sun­day in the first stage of an agree­ment to re­store or­der to a con­tested fron­tier zone.

The al-Qaida-linked Fatah al-Sham Front is ex­pected to leave the bor­der re­gion in the com­ing stages, fol­low­ing two weeks of bat­tles with Hezbol­lah and the Syr­ian army.

But the Front an­nounced Sun­day it had cap­tured three Hezbol­lah fight­ers, one day after Hezbol­lah ad­mit­ted a group had gone miss­ing in the Ar­sal bor­der re­gion. It was not im­me­di­ately clear whether the rev­e­la­tion would af­fect the deal un­der­way to re­set­tle the Fatah al-Sham Front.

The Le­banese mil­i­tant group Hezbol­lah handed over the bod­ies of nine al-Qaida fight­ers in ex­change for the bod­ies of five of its own, ac­cord­ing to the Hezbol­lah’s Al-Ma­nar TV sta­tion.

Le­banese Red Cross spokesman Ge­orge Kat­tani says a woman and child were also handed over to the al-Qaida af­fil­i­ate, known as the Nusra Front and recently re­branded as Fatah al-Sham Front.

The ex­change, like the bat­tles that pre­ceded it, un­der­scores Hezbol­lah’s clout in re­gional af­fairs as it clears the bor­der of al-Qaida and ISIL group mil­i­tants, with the Le­banese gov­ern­ment largely a by­stander.

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