BEIRUT/ANKARA: The two Turkish Airlines employees kidnapped in Beirut earlier this month are being held in separate locations, a security source Monday confirmed to The Daily Star but declined to provide any further details. Turkish media reported that officials from the country had made contact with the pilots and knew that they were “alive and in good condition.”
“I hope we will be reunited with them as soon as possible,” Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said, according to the Turkish daily Hurriyet.
The Turkish news agency Anadolu had reported earlier that the pilot was being held in the Sharawna neighborhood of Baalbek while the co-pilot was moved to the southern village of Zawtar after spending time in Beirut’s southern suburbs.
The agency added that two four-wheel drive vehicles with the same license plates kidnapped the pilots.
Turkish Airlines pilot Murat Akpinar and his co-pilot Murat Agca were abducted on Aug. 9 near the Rafik Hariri International Airport.
Shortly after the abduction on the airport road, a group calling itself Zuwwar al-Imam Ali al-Reda – “visitors to Imam Ali al-Reda” – claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and demanded the release of nine Shiite Lebanese held in Syria since May 2012.
Three suspects have been arrested so far in connection to the pilots’ kidnapping. They are relatives of Jameel Saleh and Abbas Shoeib, two of the nine Lebanese hostages being held by rebels.
Also Monday, a Turkish pilot refused to fly a Beirut-bound plane from Istanbul in a show of protest against the kidnapping of two of his colleagues in Lebanon, Turkish media reported.
Yilmaz Ozgenturk, a captain at national carrier Turkish Airlines, left the cockpit after announcing to passengers in Turkish and English that he would not fly to Beirut because he was protesting the abduction, the Milliyet newspaper reported.
The plane eventually took off after a new pilot was found to fly it.