HERMEL, Lebanon: All but one of a group of Lebanese and Syrians who were kidnapped in the northern Bekaa Tuesday have been released, according to the National News Agency.
The group of 10 were seized Tuesday by armed Syrian gunmen at a quarry where they worked, near the village of Ras Baalbek. They included three Lebanese, one Turk and six Syrians, including three Syrian Kurds.
Security sources told The Daily Star that the Syrian Kurds were able to escape, and said the Lebanese nationals included quarry owner Mikhael Mourad and one person from Arsal.
The NNA said all except Mourad had been released, adding that efforts were underway to free him.
The kidnappers also stole three trucks, a pick-up truck and a bulldozer from the quarry.
The kidnappers were Syrian gunmen and have now taken shelter in the heights of Ras Baalbek’s outskirts, the sources said.
The Lebanese Army has launched a manhunt to find them.
Some residents of the village told The Daily Star that the kidnappers were members of the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, which they said had infiltrated the mountains bordering the village.
Ras Baalbek’s Mayor Hisham Arjaa said he did not foresee counter-kidnappings, saying only five Syrians were among the abducted.
“We live in a secure village here in Ras Baalbek,” he told The Daily Star, referring to the many Lebanese Army posts scattered through the village.
Ras Baalbek is a primarily Greek Catholic village located a few kilometers away from the eastern mountain range along Lebanon’s porous border with Syria.
An estimated 300 families have moved to Ras Baalbek since the Syrian war began and the village has remained relatively free of the repercussions felt by other eastern villages due to the crisis.