BAALBEK, Lebanon (AFP) – Anger erupted in eastern Lebanon early Saturday after al- Qaeda-linked Syrian extremist group the Al-Nusra front said it had killed a captured Lebanese policeman to avenge the arrest of militants’ wives and children.
The body of an unidentified Sunni man who had been shot dead was found on a road in the mainly Shiite Bekaa Valley region bordering Syria in a suspected act of revenge for the policeman’s murder while gunmen abducted an unknown number of Sunni residents from the area, security sources said.
Angry residents were blocking roads and set fire to tyres in the village of Bazzalieh, an AFP correspondent at the scene said.
The village is not far from the border town of Arsal where a former wife and young daughter of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State (IS) group that has seized large parts of Syria and Iraq, were detained this week.
The flare-up came after Al-Nusra posted a photograph that it said showed the execution of detained Lebanese policeman Ali al-Bazaal, in a statement on its Twitter account picked up by the SITE terrorism watchdog.
Bazaal was one of around 30 Lebanese soldiers and policemen abducted by extremists in August during fighting in Arsal.
“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,” Al-Nusra said.
Lebanese security sources said they were trying to verify the claim.
The group did not identify the women and children it said Lebanon was holding, nor did it say how many were missing.
On Wednesday, Lebanon’s interior minister said authorities there were holding the daughter and former wife of IS chief Baghdadi.
While both the Islamic State group and Al-Nusra are based in neighbouring Syria, they have clashed with Lebanese border forces and with the Lebanese militia Hizbollah, which supports Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s regime.