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Lebanon Shiite gunmen kidnap Sunnis in Arsal

Sectarian tensions flare up in Lebanon in a string of tit-for-tat kidnappings, arrests and 'executions', reignited by Syria war
A Shiite Lebanese gunman holds a rocket-propelled grenade as he blocks vehicles on a road in the village of Bazzaliyeh which leads to the town of Arsal on 6 December, 2014 (AFP)

Gunmen around eastern Lebanon's majority Shiite town of Bazzaliyeh took to the streets Friday night and kidnapped several men from the Sunni town of Arsal, where Syrian refugees have sought shelter.

A security told AFP that one Syrian man in the Lebanese town of Arsal had been shot by suspected Shiite gunmen, but he had survived and was being treated in hospital for gunshot wounds.

The other men kidnapped overnight have since been freed, said the source.

Bazzaliyeh is home of kidnapped policeman Ali al-Bazzal, who Al-Nusra Front claimed via its Twitter account that it had executed in retaliation for the Lebanese government's arrests of family members of the group.

"We executed the prisoner of war, Ali al-Bazzal. This is the least we can do in response to the Lebanese army, which has followed the dirty footsteps of Shiites and Hezbollah by arresting women and children," the group said on Twitter.

But a top government official told AFP on condition of anonymity that the authorities had not yet received proof of policeman Bazzal's killing.

Earlier this week, the Lebanese army reportedly arrested one of the wives of the Islamic State (IS) militant group's leader, along with one of his sons on the border with Syria.

The Lebanese authorities have also arrested a woman married to Abu Ali al-Shishani, a former member of Al-Nusra Front who has since joined IS.

Shiite Lebanese gunmen block vehicles on a road in the village of Bazzaliyeh which leads to the town of Arsal in on 6 December, 2014 (AFP)

Al-Nusra threatened it would execute another hostage if the Lebanese government does not release the two women.

Bazzal is the fourth hostage reportedly killed by their captors from the 30 troops and policemen kidnapped in August, after a major battle in Arsal in eastern Lebanon on the border with Syria.

A fifth soldier died from wounds he suffered during the Arsal battle four days into the hostage crisis.

In an angry statement to reporters, Bazzal's bereaved family called on Lebanese authorities "to immediately execute terrorists" held in the country's prisons.

The family also warned they would not allow any aid delivered to Arsal, where tens of thousands of Syrians have sought shelter from their country's civil war.

Relatives of another 25 troops and policemen being held hostage by militants cut off several roads in Beirut and elsewhere in Lebanon.

Lebanon has been scarred by sectarian tensions linked to the war in neighbouring Syria.

Both IS and Al-Nusra Front demand the withdrawal from Syria of fighters from Lebanon's Hezbollah, which has been openly fighting alongside Syrian government forces.