May 25, 2012
May 25, 2012
Eleven Lebanese hostages kidnapped in Syria arrived to the Turkish borders, Al Arabiya reported on Friday, as they are expected to board on a flight back to Beirut.
Earlier today, an Islamist cleric who was supposedly brokering their release, announced that they will be freed “within hours”, .
“The process is in its final stages, they will be released within hours God willing,” Sheikh Ibrahim al-Zoaby had told Reuters.
The kidnapping of the Lebanese triggered protests in Beirut and raised fears it could ignite sectarian conflict in Lebanon.
The hostages were among a group of Shiite pilgrims returning to Lebanon from Iran when gunmen stopped their bus after it crossed into Syria from Turkey on Tuesday.
Some of those released said the gunmen were from the Free Syrian Army (FSA), an umbrella organization led by exiled army defectors, fighting Bachar el-Assad’s regime.
The FSA denied any connection to the kidnapping and said it was making “every effort” to locate and release the group.
“The leadership is making every effort to find out where the abductees are, and to make sure they are freed,” FSA official spokesman Colonel Kassem Saadeddine said in a statement.
Saadeddine reiterated that the FSA had no involvement in this week’s kidnappings, condemning “all kidnapping operations, regardless of their nationality or religious belief or sect.”
At the same time, he complained over the treatment of Syrian refugees and anti-regime figures in Lebanon.
“Revolutionary Syrians in Lebanon have faced persecution, kidnap and murder,” he charged. “We will no longer be silent on any action carried out by any Lebanese parties affecting Syrians in Lebanon.”
The FSA spokesman urged “the Lebanese state to take full responsibility in hosting and protecting Syrian refugees in Lebanon,” where the government is dominated by a coalition that supports Syria’s regime.
The kidnappings came at a time of deep tension in Lebanon over Syria. News of the abduction on Tuesday night set off protests in Beirut’s southern suburbs, where residents burned tires and blocked roads.
Syria’s uprising began in March 2011 with mostly peaceful calls for reform, but the government’s brutal crackdown on dissent led many in the opposition to take up arms. The U.N. estimates more than 9,000 people have been killed.
Source: Alarabiya with agencies