BODIES EXCHANGED AS PART OF BORDER PACT
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.