BEIRUT: Lebanese political figures praised Saturday the different parties involved in the recent release of nine Lebanese hostages who were kidnapped in Syria in May last year.
“We pay special thanks to Qatar for its pivotal contribution and role in the case and to Palestinian President [Mahmoud Abbas] who held contacts urging for the release of the hostages ever since they were kidnapped,” Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said.
On May 22 of last year, 11 Lebanese Shiites were kidnapped by a rebel group on their way from a pilgrimage in Iran near the Aleppo District of Azaz. Two were released in the following months.
The release of the remaining nine came late Friday, according to Lebanese officials, a day after Qatar vowed to intervene to bring the case of the pilgrims to a safe conclusion.
Berri, who congratulated the pilgrims on being released, also paid tribute to Turkey, thanking Ankara for having “responded to efforts [to free the hostages] and helped transfer them to secure places [inside Turkey].”
A security source told The Daily Star that the nine Lebanese were in Turkey and in “Turkish hands.”
Berri also thanked “neighboring Syria, which responded to the requirements for resolving the case.”
For his part, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri congratulated the Lebanese people, particularly the relatives of the pilgrims, over the success of the efforts that led to the release of the nine citizens.
He voiced hope the release of the Lebanese would lead to “ending the suffering of a lot of prisoners and hostages and trapped people” and the release of Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox Archbishop Boulos Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim, two priests who were kidnapped in Syria earlier this year.
Yazigi and Ibrahim were abducted in April by armed men while they were on their way to Aleppo from the Turkish border.
Hariri also hailed the role of Qatar, Turkey and Lebanon’s General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim for their efforts in securing the release of the hostages.