Rafehi Negotiates Extension of Ultimatum Granted to Government by Arsal Gunmen

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Salafist cleric Sheikh Salem al-Rafehi reportedly contacted the Emir of the Islamic State of the Iraq and the Levant, Abou Talal al-Hamad, to grant the Turkish-Qatari mediation a chance to reach a breakthrough.

According to al-Akhbar newspaper published on Thursday, al-Rafehi discussed with Hamad the possibility of extending ISIL’s ultimatum three days until the negotiating delegation arrives in Lebanon.

Sources close to the Muslim Scholars Committee told the newspaper that the Salafist cleric “warned against any reckless move and the murder of any security personnel, which will only have a negative impact on all Syrian refugees” in Lebanon.

The newspaper reported that the Lebanese government received comforting signals that ISIL groups will not kill any kidnapped security personnel.

On Wednesday evening, ISIL announced in a statement that it will “extend the ultimatum granted to the Lebanese state another 48 hours after it received positive signs from the government” regarding the demands.

The statement comes a day after the group issued another statement threatening to kill the soldiers and policemen taken hostage at the northeastern town of Arsal.

Islamist militants abducted several soldiers and policemen at the end of clashes between the army and the gunmen in the town earlier in August.

The fighting broke out on August 2 upon the arrest of a member of the al-Qaida-affiliated al-Nusra Front.

Last week, the Muslim Scholars Committee announced that it was suspending its negotiation efforts to release the captives, saying that it will pave the way for other initiatives to that end.

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