BEIRUT (AP) — Gunmen crossed the border from Syria into Lebanon and captured a Lebanese soldier on Wednesday in the first such kidnapping since an incursion last month raised fears of growing spillover from Syria’s deadly civil war.
Kamal al-Hujairi was captured while visiting his parents’ farm on the outskirts of the town of Arsal when he was snatched by gunmen, a Lebanese military official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with military regulations. The state-run National News Agency confirmed the incident and said the militants also stole several cows from the farm.
It was the first kidnapping along the border since Aug. 2, when Islamic militants crossed into Lebanon and captured more than 20 soldiers and police.
At least eight of the men are being held by the Syrian al-Qaida affiliate, the Nusra Front. Others are being detained by the extremist Islamic State group, which has beheaded two. The killings outraged Lebanon and sparked days of violence against Syrian refugees in the country.
The Islamic State group, which controls parts of Syria and Iraq, has also beheaded two Americans and a British citizen in recent weeks.
Since last month’s capture, Lebanese troops have clashed with jihadist fighters in the border area near Arsal. The military official said the troops opened fire on Wednesday on a motorcycle that did not stop at a checkpoint in Arsal, leaving one wounded.
Lebanon is negotiating for the men’s release through mediation by officials from Qatar. The Nusra Front is demanding the release of accused Islamic militants from Lebanese detention. They are also demanding that the Lebanese militant Hezbollah group stop fighting in Syria alongside the forces of President Bashar Assad.
On Sunday, Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam traveled to the Qatari capital of Doha and held talks with senior officials there. Qatar is a major backer of Syrian rebel groups.