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Qatar ends mediation for Arsal hostages

Qatar's Foreign Ministry said it will end its mediation efforts to free at least 21 Lebanese soldiers due to the 'failure of these endeavours'
The Islamic State and the Al-Nusra front kidnapped at least 21 Lebanese soldiers from Arsal in August (AFP)

Qatar's Foreign Ministry announced on Monday that its mediation efforts to free Lebanese soldiers abducted in Arsal months ago by Syria-based militant groups have ended in failure.

In August, the Islamic State group and the Al-Nusra Front – both of which are fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government – captured at least 21 Lebanese soldiers near the border with war-torn Syria.

The two militant groups demand the withdrawal of Hezbollah fighters in Syria as well as the release of other fighters from Lebanese prisons, but so far, Beirut has repeatedly refused to negotiate. Four hostages have been killed since they were abducted.

Qatari Foreign Ministry officials said in a statement they would not continue their mediation "due to the failure of these efforts".

"Mediation efforts were out of humanitarian reasons, as well as Qatar's keenness to preserve the lives of innocent people," the ministry said in a statement on Monday, adding that Lebanon was the one that had asked for Qatari mediation.

Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam had phoned Qatar's Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani last Tuesday to follow up on Doha's help with the case of the troops kidnapped by the two groups.

On Friday, Al-Nusra Front said that it had executed one of the Lebanese soldiers that it holds, blaming Lebanese authorities for failing to heed their earlier threats to kill the soldier if they did not release Front members detained in Lebanon.

It went on to warn that another soldier would be executed soon if all "the brothers [Front members] who had been arrested unjustly were not freed".

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

Anas Sharkas, an IS commander and the husband of Ala al-Oqaili who was arrested, threatened "woe, destruction and much worse to come" if any harm was inflicted on al-Oqaili or his children.

"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.”