Hariri, Jumblat Defend Salam against Troops Kidnap Criticism
Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Progressive Socialist Party chief MP Walid Jumblat on Tuesday threw their support behind ex-PM Tammam Salam in the face of criticism addressed to him and his 2014 government over the abduction of dozens of troops at the hands of jihadist groups.
“Tammam Salam will not be affected by the attacks of the prejudiced parties. We stood by him and we always will... Enough is enough,” Hariri tweeted.
He added: “I don't remember that those attacking Tammam Beik Salam today had withdrawn from his government back then in protest at what they are claiming today.”
Jumblat for his part tweeted: “Enough with manipulating the sentiments of the families... In war, any soldier faces martyrdom or captivity and it is shameful to pin the blame on Tammam Salam.”
Hizbullah, the Free Patriotic Movement and some of their allies have criticized Salam's government, Hariri and former army chief Jean Qahwaji over the events of the 2014 battle against the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front jihadist groups, accusing them of ordering a premature halt to the fighting that allowed the militants to abduct around 30 Lebanese troops and policemen to the outskirts of the border town of Arsal.
The war of words comes after eight Lebanese troops who were still in IS' hands were announced dead on Sunday.
The fate of the troops was unveiled as part of an agreement led by Hizbullah. The agreement followed separate but simultaneous anti-IS assaults by Hizbullah and the Lebanese and Syrian armies on both sides of the border that ended with the surrender of the IS militants.
IS fighters who surrendered on both fronts were allowed to leave with their families to Syria's Deir Ezzor province as part of the deal that also involved the handover of a Hizbullah captive and bodies belonging to slain Hizbullah fighters.