Lebanon News

Protests in Zahle after schoolboy kidnapped

BEIRUT: Angered by the kidnapping Friday of a nine-year-old schoolboy in Zahle, east Lebanon, friends and relatives blocked roads across the town to pressure authorities to help free the child.

Dozens of supporters and relatives blocked off intersections with burning tires shortly after Michel, the son of wealthy businessman Ibrahim Saqr, was snatched by masked gunmen as he headed to school in a chauffeur-driven car.

Bekaa Valley Prosecutor Farid Kallab inspected the scene of the kidnapping and ordered security agencies to launch a search for the boy.

Michel was kidnapped around 7 a.m. while on his way to the Sainte Famille school in Zahle, a security source told The Daily Star.

The source said the assailants in a Grand Cherokee and a Honda intercepted Saqr's car, pulled the driver out and beat him, while others snatched the boy and sped off in the Cherokee to an unknown destination.

The driver was identified only as Abu Milad. The Honda used in the kidnapping was left behind at the abduction scene. The sources said the vehicle was stolen from the Beirut district of Sin al-Fil earlier this week.

Saqr owns a gas company and several gas stations. He also runs an advertising business in the Bekaa Valley.

Prime Minister Tammam Salam followed up on the kidnapping case with the relevant officials and also contacted the leaderships of Hezbollah and the Amal Movement asking them to help the security agencies address the issue, his office said.

For his part, Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk contacted the father of the kidnapped boy and informed him that he has told the security forces to take "all necessary measures" to release Michel, according to the National News Service.

He also called for a security meeting to address the rising phenomenon of kidnapping.

“We must confront the [gangs] that specialize in kidnapping, murder, fraud, theft and drugs,” Machnouk said in a statement.

Lebanon has seen a spate of kidnappings for ransom over the past year.

On Thursday, gunmen kidnapped a Lebanese currency exchange dealer at gunpoint in east Lebanon, but released him several hours later.





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