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Iraq angered by transfer of IS militants from Lebanese border to east Syria

Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi calls evacuating the militants to region near Iraq 'alarming' and 'unacceptable'
Convoy of IS militants departing the Lebanon-Syria border zone in Qalamoun, 28 August (Reuters)

Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Tuesday criticised the ceasefire deals that saw hundreds of Islamic State (IS) group militants evacuated from an enclave on the Lebanese-Syrian border.

The militants were given safe passage to the Syrian province of Deir Ezzor.

Abadi called the arrangement “alarming”.

“We consider it an insult to the Iraqi people,” he said. “Transferring this number of terrorists over long distances to east Syria by the Iraqi border is unacceptable.”

He added that he hoped Baghdad was consulted on the matter.

“We are fighting the terrorists in Iraq. We don’t expel them to Syria; we kill them in Iraq,” Abadi said.

IS agreed to a ceasefire deal that took effect on Sunday with the Lebanese army on one front and Hezbollah with the Syrian army on the other.

The militants had lost much of their mountainous enclave straddling the border since the two offensives began on opposite sides of the frontier.

Iraqi analysts and activists also slammed the deal.

Hisham Alhashimi, an Iraqi researcher and author, called Lebanon and Syria "selfish allies" in a Facebook post.

"Iraqis have destroyed their second biggest city to not allow IS militants to escape and harm our neighbours," he wrote, referring to Mosul.

The deal also sparked anger in Lebanon, especially after it was discovered that nine Lebanese soldiers who were abducted by IS in 2014 have likely been killed by the group.

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The parliamentary bloc of Prime Minister Saad Hariri slammed Hezbollah, saying it orchestrated the agreement to ensure the escape of IS militants in return for the remains of Hezbollah fighters and a member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards killed in Syria.

“With this deceptive stand, Hezbollah has revealed to the Lebanese people that it only cares about itself and the interests of Iran and the Syrian regime, not the interests of the Lebanese people,” the lawmakers said in statement on Tuesday.

Hariri’s camp has been opposed to Hezbollah’s intervention of Syria, where the militia is fighting alongside government troops in the ongoing civil war. But Hezbollah says it is fighting “terrorists” to prevent them from attacking Lebanon.

Lebanon’s security chief Abbas Ibrahim defended the ceasefire agreement on Monday saying security forces were not seeking revenge or bloodshed, but had set out to “liberate” Lebanese soil from IS militants and reveal the fate of the kidnapped soldiers.

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