BEIRUT

Lebanon News

Azaz hostages safe as jihadists overrun town

Lebanese policemen stand guard as families of Lebanese pilgrims who were kidnapped in Syria, protest in Ain al-Tineh, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: The nine Lebanese hostages held by Syrian rebels are in good health after an Al-Qaeda affiliated group overran the Syrian northern town of Azaz where the men are believed to be held, a spokesman said Thursday.

“We spoke to [head of General Security Brig. Gen.] Abbas Ibrahim, who is in constant contact with Turkish authorities, and he told us that the hostages are in good condition,” Hayat Awali, spokesperson for the Lebanese hostages’ families, told The Daily Star.

Awali claimed the nine men were not being held in Azaz, but inside Turkey.

Free Syrian Army fighters and radical Islamists have battled for control of rebel-held areas around Syria recently and a jihadist group seized much of Azaz Wednesday.

A group of 11 Lebanese Shiites were kidnapped in May of last year in the Aleppo district of Azaz by a rebel group as they traveled through Syria. Two of the hostages have been released so far.

Relatives of the Lebanese hostages argue that Turkey has leverage to secure the release of their kin given its strong ties with the Syrian opposition.

Two Turkish Airlines pilots were kidnapped on their way to a hotel from Beirut airport in August. An unknown group claimed responsibility for the abduction, demanding to swap them for the kidnapped Shiites.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 20, 2013, on page 3.

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