BEIRUT: A man who was kidnapped last week was released at dawn Monday near the Bekaa city of Zahle after his captors were paid over half a million dollars in ransom. Ali Ahmad Mansour, 73, a well-known financier from the town of Gaza in the Bekaa, was abducted by gunmen last week, becoming one in a string of Lebanese businessmen to be kidnapped by armed groups in recent weeks.
Amid a crackdown on the armed groups behind the abductions, Mansour’s captors had demanded a ransom of $15 million for his release.
A security source told The Daily Star that the kidnappers received $600,000 in ransom. Mansour spent five days in captivity.
A number of suspects believed to be involved in the kidnapping were arrested in raids carried out by Army Intelligence units in the Bekaa’s Brital area over the weekend, but Mansour was not found with them.
Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said the Internal Security Forces and the Lebanese Army will continue to pursue the armed group responsible for the kidnapping despite the safe return of Mansour to his family.
“Mansour’s release in return for a ransom doesn’t mean that the kidnappers won’t be chased by the police,” Charbel said in an interview with Voice of Lebanon radio station.
Another man who was kidnapped over the weekend outside his home in the area of Makseh, Zahle, was also released Monday.
Basil Mahmoud al-Mays, 55, managed to escape to nearby Army barracks in the Bekaa after his captors abandoned him in a cave, according to a statement by the Army Monday.
“The captors fled the cave and left the captive there. He was thus able to flee to the nearest Army center in the area,” the statement said.
Mays was kidnapped Saturday by four masked gunmen just as he was arriving home from a wedding he had attended with his family.
“Intelligence units were able to identify the perpetrators who took part in the kidnapping operation,” the statement said, adding that the gunmen abandoned Mays at a cave in the Bekaa’s Dahr al-Baidar en route to Zahle. The kidnappers fled away with Mays’ Nissan Pathfinder.
“Investigations are under way to locate the kidnappers, arrest them and transfer them to the judicial authorities,” the statement added.
Abductions of civilians in the country have multiplied in the past months, with armed groups carrying out targeted kidnappings of wealthy Lebanese.
With increasing pressure on the government to put an end to the spate of abductions, the Army put a security plan into place in coordination with other security forces in the country.
Youssef Beshara, brother of Anis Beshara who owns a popular bakery chain in the country, was kidnapped in the Metn town of Bsalim earlier this month.
Following several calls, Beshara’s family and his captors agreed to a ransom of the amount of $400,000 for his release last week.
Several days after paying the ransom, Army Intelligence units raided the house of one of the kidnappers in the Beirut neighborhood of Shiyah and arrested him. The Army also recovered most of the ransom money paid to the captors.