Lebanon army says in final stage of border battle with Daesh

Lebanese army soldiers gesture as they sit on their military vehicles in the town of Ras Baalbek, Lebanon, on August 21, 2017. (REUTERS/ Ali Hashisho)
Updated 22 August 2017

Lebanon army says in final stage of border battle with Daesh

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s army said Tuesday it had captured most of a mountainous area on the border with Syria during an operation to clear Daesh group jihadists from the region.
The army began its campaign in the Jurud Ras Baalbek and Jurud Al-Qaa areas on Lebanon’s eastern border on Saturday, capturing more than two thirds of the 120 square kilometers held by Daesh jihadists in the first two days.
“We have captured around another 20 square kilometers, so we have about another 20 square kilometers to go,” said army spokesman Brigadier General Ali Qanso.
He declined to be drawn on how much longer it would take the army to finish the operation.
Four Lebanese soldiers have been killed since the campaign began, including one on Tuesday when a land mine detonated under his vehicle.
The other three were killed when they drove over a land mine at the weekend.
At a press conference, Qanso presented pictures of Daesh weapons, ammunition and mines recovered during the fight, as well as tunnels used by the jihadist group.
The army estimated that around 600 IS fighters were in the area on the eastern border, where jihadists have long posed a security threat.
In 2014, they invaded the border town of Arsal, capturing 30 Lebanese soldiers and police.
Four were executed by their captors and a fifth died of his wounds. Sixteen were released in a prisoner swap in December 2015, but another nine soldiers are believed to remain in Daesh hands.
Their fate remains unclear, and Qanso said the soldiers were the army’s “top concern.”
The army’s operation comes after Lebanese militant group Hezbollah carried out its own six-day campaign against fighters from a former Al-Qaeda affiliate further south on the border area.
That offensive ended with a cease-fire under which 8,000 refugees and jihadists were transported to northwestern Syria in return for the release of five captured Hezbollah fighters.
Hezbollah and the Syrian army launched their own simultaneous attack against Daesh from the Syrian side of the border on Saturday, but Lebanon’s army insists it is not coordinating the assault.
Hezbollah is a key ally of Syria’s government and has bolstered its forces against rebels there.


Let militants return home, French anti-terror magistrate urges

In this file photo taken on July 22, 2019 French antiterrorist judge David De Pas poses during a photo session in Paris. (AFP)
Updated 21 October 2019

Let militants return home, French anti-terror magistrate urges

  • Turkey’s offensive against Kurdish militia in northeast Syria has sparked fears that some of the 12,000 militants, including thousands of foreigners, being held in Syrian Kurdish prisons could escape

PARIS: The refusal of the French government to take back Daesh militants from Syria could fuel a new militant recruitment drive in France, threatening public safety, a leading anti-terrorism investigator has told AFP.
David De Pas, coordinator of France’s 12 anti-terrorism examining magistrates, said it would be “better to know that these people are in the care of the judiciary” in France “than let them roam free.”
Turkey’s offensive against Kurdish militia in northeast Syria has sparked fears that some of the 12,000 militants, including thousands of foreigners, being held in Syrian Kurdish prisons could escape.
Officials in Paris say 60 to 70 French fighters are among those held, with around 200 adults, including militants’ wives, being held in total, along with some 300 children.

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France has refused to allow the adults return home, saying they must face local justice. So far Paris has only taken back a handful of children, mostly orphans.

France has refused to allow the adults return home, saying they must face local justice. So far Paris has only taken back a handful of children, mostly orphans.
This week, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian traveled to Iraq to try convince Baghdad to take in and try French militants being held in northern Syria. On Friday, in a rare interview, De Pas argued that instability in the region and the “porous nature” of the Syrian Kurdish prison camps risked triggering “uncontrolled migration of jihadists to Europe, with the risk of attacks by very ideological people.”
The Turkish offensive, which has detracted the Kurds’ attention from fighting Daesh, could also facilitate the “re-emergence of battle-hardened, determined terrorist groups.”