BEIRUT (AFP) - The Lebanese police have arrested a man who staged a sick prank by filming himself threatening to behead three Syrian refugee children left in his care, a security official told AFP on Saturday.
The video, which was posted on YouTube on Friday and shared widely, shows the three terrified children crying as a man standing behind a camera waves a knife and asks: "Whom do we behead first?" Adding to the pathos of the incident, the crying children respond by pointing at each other.
A security official said the video proved to be a "sick joke", and that the children had been left in the man's care by their mother, his neighbour, while she was out at work. "The intelligence branch of the Internal Security Forces has detained the man who made the video," said the police official, adding that the incident had taken place in the southern Nabatiyeh province.
The security forces' statement added that the children's mother was also briefly detained. "At the very end of the filming, the mother arrived from work and (said she) enjoyed the scene and asked (her neighbour) to send her the video."
The woman was released shortly afterwards, after pledging to treat her children better.
While describing the incident as "an isolated incident", the official said the video was yet another sign of the effect of the Syrian war on Lebanese society.
Lebanon hosts more than 1.1 million Syrian refugees, and fighting related to the conflict frequently breaks out in the tiny country.
Last month, jihadists took a number of Lebanese soldiers and police hostage after battles with them. They subsequently beheaded two of the soldiers, and widely distributed images of their corpses.
"We call on everyone to make sure we maintain our awareness, but of course this video shows the depth of the impact of the Syrian crisis," said the police official.
"People are affected by seeing images of beheadings, and some people will start to imitate them. Poor children; they were terrified," he added.