BEIRUT: Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said Tuesday efforts were ongoing to secure the release of the remaining kidnapped pilgrims in Syria, the National News Agency reported.
“The Lebanese cabinet will eagerly pursue the case of the kidnapped [Lebanese] until they are released,” Charbel said following talks with Habib Meqdad, brother of Hassan Meqdad – a Lebanese kidnapped in Syria – and the recently freed captive Awad Ibrahim.
“Efforts are ongoing to reveal the whereabouts of Hassan Meqdad and get him back home safely,” Charbel said.
Eleven Lebanese men were kidnapped in the Aleppo district of Azaz on May 22, shortly after crossing into Syria from Turkey. They were on their way back to Lebanon following a pilgrimage to Shiite holy sites in Iran.
Two of the kidnapped, Hussein Omar and Awad Ibrahim, were released in two stages, whereas the nine remaining pilgrims remain captives.
Hassan Meqdad was kidnapped separately on August 13. The Free Syrian Army had accused him of belonging to Hezbollah. The resistance group has denied any ties to Meqdad.
However, Hassan’s abduction triggered a spate of kidnappings in the country by the Meqdad clan in retaliation for his seizure.
The army was able to end the surge of abductions, arresting Meqdad clan members involved in the kidnappings, including their spokesperson Maher, and set free their captives.