BEIRUT: The Islamic State (IS) group has postponed the execution of seven hostages it threatened to kill on Monday.
“Some calls were made, and the threat has been delayed,” Health Minister Wael Abu Faour told reporters after he visited protesters near Beirut’s Saifi neighborhood. “We gained some time. I can only say that we gained some time, nothing more,” he added.
Abu Faour said both the families and Lebanon’s negotiators were contacted with news of the delay.
IS had given 4 p.m. as ultimatum for the Lebanese government to revoke death sentences handed down to Islamists in prison, threatening to execute seven captives.
On Sunday, the IS released a video of the gruesome simultaneous beheadings of at least 18 men described as Syrian military personnel, and another video showing the decapitated body of American aid worker Peter Kassig.
The move by IS to delay the execution of seven other hostages created a climate of hysteria among the captives’ families, who escalated their continuous protest and blocked roads, which is the northern entrance of Beirut.
Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk downplayed IS’ threat, saying that “the kidnappers’ message is not serious.”
According the Machnouk, the families are being controlled by the kidnappers, but the interior minister said that “they can not be blamed for their actions.”
Politicians, however, cannot reduce the sentences of Islamists detained in Roumieh since that authority belongs to the judiciary, Machnouk said.
The jihadist group, which according to the parents holds nine soldiers and policemen, had threatened to kill the majority of its hostages if Lebanon does not revoke the sentences before noon, according to Jawdat Jaber, father of the kidnapped Lance Corporal Maymoun Jaber.
A Lebanese court issued life sentences with hard labor against five Islamist prisoners in Roumieh, including Saudi prisoners, judicial sources said on Monday.
Justice Minister pointed out that the five convicts were originally sentenced to death, but their sentences were reduced to life in prison with hard labor.