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IS leader threatens 'retribution' against Lebanon over detained wife and children

Confusion has surrounded the capture of two women by Lebanese authorities with links to senior Islamic State group leaders
Tires are burning in Beirut during a demonstration of the families of the Lebanese soldiers who were captured by the Al-Nusra Front (AFP)

A commander in the Islamic State (IS) group has threatened “woe, destruction and much worse to come” if any harm is inflicted on his wife or children, who are being held by authorities in Lebanon.

Anas Sharkas – better known as Abu Ans al-Shishani – has contacted a senior official in Lebanon’s Muslim Scholar Committee demanding the release of his wife Ala al-Oqaili and their two children, according to a report on Friday in the Lebanese Daily Star.

The IS leader warned if they are not released Lebanon will face retribution.

“I hold Salem Rafei, the head of the Committee of Muslim Scholars, fully responsibility for the return of my wife. ... All Sunnis in Lebanon are responsible for our wives who are being taken to prisons. On what charge? I do not know,” he said in a video posted to YouTube.

“I call on you, Sunnis, to rise up in unity. Our wives and men are in prisons. They took my wife and children and had no right to do so.”

In the video Sharkas sat behind an IS flag and denied reports he was in fact a leader in the al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, which is one of many groups fighting in the Syrian civil war, and said he was "willing to sacrifice his life and his family for the sake of Baghdadi."

He threatened violence against Lebanese civilians, if his wife and children aren't released, saying "all your wives, children and men are legitimate targets now. I will start taking action very soon to take women and children captive [in Lebanon]." 

Sharkas' wife Ala al-Oqaili was arrested by Lebanese security forces last week, coming on the heels of the arrest of Saja Dulaimi, reportedly the ex-wife of Islamic State (IS) group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Security forces are said to have described the capture of the two women as “big fish.” The children of Oqaili have been taken into a social care centre.

Confusion has surrounded the arrest of Dulaimi, who has been in detention for three weeks and is said to be pregnant – after her initial capture, some news groups alleged that she was in fact the wife of Sharkas, not Baghdadi, a claim further muddied by a denial from the Iraqi authorities that she was the IS leader’s wife.

On Wednesday, Nohad Machnouk, Lebanon’s interior minister, attempted to clarify the matter.

"Dulaimi is not Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's wife currently. She has been married three times: first to a man from the former Iraqi regime, with whom she had two sons," he said, speaking to Lebanon’s MTV television channel.

"Six years ago she married Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi for three months, and she had a daughter with him. Now, she is married to a Palestinian and she is pregnant with his child."

He also stated that Baghdadi's daughter had been picked up in Lebanon.

"We conducted DNA tests on her and the daughter, which showed she was the mother of the girl, and that the girl is [Baghdadi's] daughter, based on DNA from Baghdadi from Iraq," he said.

Though the minister did not elaborate on how the Iraqi government had access to Baghdadi’s DNA, it is likely to have stemmed from his time in Camp Bucca in Iraq, where he was held in detention by US forces for four years.

Dulaimi had previously been arrested by the Syrian government, but was released in a prisoner swap deal with Nusra for a group of kidnapped nuns in March, a deal allegedly partly brokered by the Lebanese general directorate of security, Abbas Ibrahim.

"Dulaimi and her family have high status for al-Nusra and are taken care of because of her dedication to this Takfiri organisation," Ibrahim was quoted as saying at the time.

"Her father was a prominent leader in al-Qaeda and one of her sisters was killed while carrying out a terrorist attack. Another sister tried to blow herself up but her explosives failed to detonate."

He also described Dulaimi as hiding a “captivating beauty” behind her veil.

Al-Nusra have stated on twitter that Dulaimi was Baghdadi’s wife and that her brother was fighting with Nusra in Qalamoun, Syria.

Around 20 Lebanese police and security forces are being held hostage by IS and Nusra, making Dulaimi and Oqaili powerful trading chips, according to Lebanese officials.

Lebanon has faced increasing instability as a result of the war in Syria, both as a result of an enormous influx of refugees and violence from militant groups.