Syria's al-Qaida branch frees Lebanese soldiers held captive since 2014 as part of swap deal

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BEIRUT — Syria's al-Qaida branch has freed a group of Lebanese soldiers held captive since August 2014 as part of a swap deal.

The group, known as Nusra Front, released the 16 soldiers on Tuesday near the border town of Arsal, where they were abducted last year.

Lebanese and other media broadcast the release. The soldiers were being transported by the militants to a location outside the border town, to be handed over to Lebanese authorities who were waiting in Red Cross vehicles.

The release is part of a Qatar-brokered deal that includes Lebanon releasing a number of prisoners wanted by the militant group.

Details on those prisoners were not immediately available.

The Nusra Front and the Islamic State group abducted about 25 soldiers and policemen in Arsal last year.

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