The Lebanese Army has announced a pause in fighting with Islamic State militants to help facilitate hostage negotiations for security personnel IS took prisoner in 2014.

The armed forces launched their campaign against IS militants entrenched in the mountainous Jurud Ras Baalbek and Jurud al-Qaa areas on Lebanon’s eastern border in mid-August.

“The army command announces a ceasefire beginning at 7:00 am (0400 GMT) to make way for the last phase of negotiations linked to the fate of the kidnapped soldiers,” the army said in a statement on Sunday.

Nine prisoners are believed still to be held by IS after militants overran the Lebanese border town of Arsal in August 2014 and kidnapped 30 soldiers and police.

Four were killed by their captors and a fifth died of his wounds, while 16 were released in a prisoner swap in December 2015.

The army has said the remaining missing personnel were its “top concern” in its offensive against an estimated 600 IS fighters in the rugged border region.

“There has been no timeframe set” for the truce, an army source told AFP.

“The negotiations are ongoing for IS to withdraw and provide information on the fate of the troops,” the source said.

Six Lebanese army soldiers have been killed since 19 August.


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