Prominent Delegation Travels to Doha ahead of PM Visit as Hujeiri Ends Negotiations with Gunmen

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Sheikh Mustafa al-Hujeiri a.k.a. Abu Taqiyeh, who has been mediating with Islamist gunmen the release of abducted Lebanese security personnel, withdrew from negotiations as a high-ranking security delegation is expected to head to Qatar on Friday.

“I have withdrawn from the negotiations,” Sheikh Hujeiri told An Nahar newspaper.

The Sheikh pointed out that he decided to end his intervention in the case after his convoy came under fire as he was escorting back the family of soldier George Khoury following their meeting.

“I am under the threat of assassination by a known group,” Hujeiri revealed.

On Monday night, Hujeiri escorted the mother, brother and sister of Khoury to the outskirts of Arsal to visit him, but they came under fire at Arsal’s edge on their way back home.

“No one contacted me to check if I am well, including the family of Khoury,” Hujeiri said.

Khoury is one of a number of soldiers and policemen who were abducted by Islamist militants from the northeastern border town of Arsal in August in light of clashes in the area between the army and the gunmen from Syria.

A few of them have since been released, while two others were beheaded, prompting a backlash against Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

Ministerial sources told al-Liwaa newspaper that a progress in the negotiation between a Qatari delegation and the Islamist gunmen prompted Prime Minister Tammam Salam to decide to travel to Doha.

The premier will head a delegation to Qatar on Sunday.

According to the sources, a breakthrough is expected to be achieved by Salam’s visit.

Qatar has reportedly dispatched a delegation to negotiate with Islamist gunmen from ISIL and the al-Qaida-affiliate al-Nusra Front the release of the soldiers and policemen.

The delegation, according to reports, tasked a Syrian national to meet with the extremists to relay their demands to the Lebanese state, which rejects direct talks with the jihadists.

Al-Joumhouria newspaper said that a high-ranking security and administrative delegation was tasked with carrying out the necessary preparations for Salam’s visit.

The delegation reportedly includes Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashouq, Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, Labor Minister Sejaan Qazzi, Minister of Social Affairs Rashid Derbas, Public Works and Transportation Minister Ghazi Zoaiter, Health Minister Wael Abu Faour and Justice Minster Ashraf Rifi.

General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, the Secretary-General of the Higher Relief Council Maj. Gen. Mohammad Kheir and an administrative and diplomatic delegation will accompany Salam in his one-day visit where extensive meetings will be held.

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