Last updated: 25 November, 2014

Hezbollah member and jihadist freed in Syria prisoner swap

Lebanon's militant Hezbollah movement said one of its members captured in Syria by Al-Qaeda's affiliate there was released on Tuesday in exchange for two jihadists held by the Shiite group.

“Prisoner Emad Ayyad has been freed, in exchange for two members of Al-Nusra Front who were being held by Hezbollah, after weeks of negotiations,” the group’s television channel reported.

Hezbollah confirmed the swap in a later statement without mentioning Al-Nusra.

It said Ayyad was exchanged for two “armed men”, without specifying when he had been captured.

A Hezbollah source, meanwhile, flatly denied any Al-Nusra involvement in the deal, referring instead to Ayyad’s kidnappers as “gunmen in Qalamun”, a Syrian region bordering Lebanon.

Hezbollah is allied to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, and has sent thousands of fighters to support his army’s bid to quell a nearly four-year revolt across the country.

The Lebanese group has played a key role in fighting around Damascus, especially in Qalamun.

The prisoner swap comes as Qatar-mediated talks try to secure freedom for 27 Lebanese soldiers held hostage by Al-Nusra and the Islamic State jihadist group since August after a fierce battle for the border town of Arsal.

Three soldiers held by Al-Nusra and IS have already been executed.