Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, announced Friday that it had executed a Lebanese policeman in retaliation for the Lebanese government’s detention of the wife of one of the groups’ senior commanders.
In a video widely distributed on jihadist websites on Friday, Al-Nusra Front said it had killed Lebanese policeman Ali Bazzal in retaliation for the arrest by Lebanese authorities of Ola Mithqal Al-Oqaily, the wife of Al-Nusra Front commander Abu Ali Al-Shishani.
The video also cited the arrest of Saja Al-Dulaimi, ex-wife of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, as a reason for the execution.
The Lebanese authorities are also holding some of the children of the Islamist leaders.
“If the sisters that were unjustly arrested are not released, then after a short period of time the death sentence will be executed against another prisoner we hold,” Shishani said in the video.
ISIS and Al-Nusra Front are still holding 25 Lebanese army personnel and police officers hostage, after seven were earlier released and four executed.
“We will not accept anything but the release of all our women and children,” he added.
In a video issued one day earlier, Shishani had threatened to target Shi’ite women and children, as well as the families of Lebanese soldiers, following his wife’s arrest.”If my wife is not released soon, do not dare to dream about the release of the soldiers without negotiations,” he said against the backdrop of the black Al-Qaeda flag and flanked by two unidentified militants.
“All your wives, children and men are legitimate targets now,” he warned.
Lebanon’s Association of Muslim Scholars has earlier responded to Shishani’s message—in which he accused the association of being responsible for the arrest and release of his wife—stressing that it did not have the power to secure her release.
A source within the association, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media, said: “We are not an [official] authority and our role does not include issuing press statements or getting involved in [security] cases.”
“Secondly, Oqaily was arrested as part of a security case, and it seems that this is a major case, and we cannot get involved in cases such as this,” he added.
A member of the Lebanese political bloc, the March 8 Alliance, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, said that the Lebanese authorities had detained the wives of prominent jihadists in order to secure “strong leverage on the militant group to expedite the release of the captive Lebanese soldiers being held by ISIS and the Al-Nusra Front.”
The family of Ali Bazzal reacted angrily to the announcement of his killing, calling on Beirut to escalate its latest security activities, including carrying out death sentences against two detained terror suspects who the Al-Nusra Front want released in exchange for the hostages.
A statement issued by the Bazzal family on Saturday read: “We ask the government to carry out the death penalty against terrorists who are living in Roumieh Prison as if it were a hotel . . . especially against Omar Atrash and Jomana Hmeid.”
Both Atrash and Hmeid have been charged with aiding terrorist groups by transporting explosives and suicide bombers to Lebanon.
Additional reporting by Nazeer Rida in Beirut.