BEIRUT: There were conflicting reports Wednesday of the fate of the 11 Lebanese pilgrims who were kidnapped in Syria in May, amid reports of at least 30 fatalities from air raids in the area where the pilgrims are thought to be held.
Lebanon’s LBC said the Foreign Ministry and political sides had been informed that all 11 of the hostages were killed in an air raid. It also said they had been informed of the death of one of the kidnappers, Abu Ibrahim.
Mansour, speaking to Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television station, denied this report soon after it surfaced.
Media also reported Mansour as quoting his Turkish counterpart as saying the 11 pilgrims were in good condition. However, Mansour’s office denied the minister had made such statements.
Turkish sources also told Al-Manar TV that the pilgrims were in good condition and that some were in Turkey.
Speaking to LBCI TV, Brig. Ahmad Ghazaleh, a member of Azaz’s rebels, said the Syrian army had bombarded the area from the air which led to the killing of scores of people, including four of the abducted Lebanese pilgrims.
The 11 men were kidnapped in May in Syria shortly after crossing from Turkey. They were heading back to Lebanon after a pilgrimage to Iran.
The conflicting reports of the pilgrims’ fate was met with anger on the streets of the capital and the National News Agency reported that the relatives of the kidnapped pilgrims blocked roads both to and from the Beirut’s international airport.
The state-run agency also reported that an Air France flight that had planned to land in Beirut changed course toward Amman, Jordan, due to the blocking of the roads.
Earlier Wednesday, Al-Jadeed TV, citing information it had obtained, said four of the 11 Lebanese who were kidnapped in Syria in May were killed in an air raid.
The station said the four pilgrims were killed when a Mig-29 jet struck Azaz in Aleppo, northwest Syria.
It also said that 15 of the kidnappers were killed in the raid.
At least two individuals, including Abu Ibrahim, one of the kidnappers, were wounded in the attack, Al-Jadeed said.
A doctor in Azaz told Reuters agency that 30 people were killed during an air raid in the area.
The day’s developments prompted President Michel Sleiman to call for a security meeting at Baabda Palace.
He also contacted Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and ministers of Prime Minister’s Najib Mikati’s Cabinet to discuss the day’s developments, a statement from his office said.
Media reported that Mikati, who is in Mecca, met with Turkish President Abdullah Gul to discuss the issue. The meeting was also attended by the foreign ministers of both Lebanon and Turkey.