BEIRUT: A Turkish hostage and four Syrians held by the Meqdad tribe went missing after Lebanese Army forces raided the area where they had been held and arrested a number of people, the spokesman of the clan said Friday.
The raid was conducted to arrest a number of wanted individuals linked to the recent kidnappings, an army statement said.
“An Army force carried out a raid to execute arrest warrants against individuals that were linked to kidnappings and recent incidents that took place on the Airport road. The Army arrested a number of wanted, including Hasan al-Meqdad, and continues to chase others,” said the statement, which made no mention of the hostages.
Hasan al-Meqdad is the brother of Maher, the clan’s spokesman.
Maher al-Meqdad told The Daily Star he knew nothing about the whereabouts of Turkish national Aydin Tekin and the four Syrians who were kidnapped by the clan last month in response to the abduction of a clan member by anti-regime rebels in Syria.
The Army deployed in the Meqdad neighborhood in the Beirut southern suburb of Rways after a personal feud broke out between a member of the Meqdads and another from the Srour family, the spokesman said.
Sheikh Hasan al-Meqdad, Maher’s brother, had been intervening to end the fight when he was arrested by Army soldiers, he added.
“The sheikh intervened to settle the dispute, but the Army deployed suddenly and arrested him along with others. He had nothing to do with the fight. He was just trying to help,” Meqdad said.
“When the Army realized the sheikh had nothing to do with the feud, they wanted to release him, but an unknown third party fired shots on Army troops who were deployed in the area, and the Army responded by raiding the neighborhood,” he added.
The clan could not locate any of the five hostages after the raid took place, Maher said, adding that they were also not in Army custody.
A military source told Al-Jadeed television the Army has not “freed any of the hostages.”
Maher said the Meqdad clan did not want any trouble with the Army, adding that a “third party” was trying to trigger a clash between the clan and Army troops.
The Meqdads had earlier threatened to kill the Turkish hostage if Hassan al-Meqdad was killed by his captors.
The clan initiated a spate of abductions in the country last month in what they said was an attempt to pressure their relative’s captors to release him.
Eleven Lebanese Shiites were also kidnapped by rebels in northern Syria last May on their way back from a pilgrimage in Iran. Hussein Omar, one of the 11, was released late last month in what was described as a “goodwill gesture” from the captors following negotiations that included Lebanese and Turkish officials.
Efforts are ongoing to secure the release of the remaining 10 and Hassan al-Meqdad.