BEIRUT

Lebanon News

Awada freed after parents pay $250,000 ransom

Awada is flanked by his parents and brother hours after his release.

BEIRUT: A 12-year-old schoolboy abducted last week was freed early Monday after his family paid the perpetrators a ransom of around $250,000, bringing a happy ending to the latest episode in a series of kidnappings that has shaken the country.

Security sources told The Daily Star that Mohammad Nibal Awada, who was freed at 4:30 a.m., had his hands and legs bound for four days during his captivity and was blindfolded most of the time.

He was snatched at gunpoint Thursday outside his home in Moseitebeh in Beirut while waiting for a school bus. Prime Minister Najib Mikati received Awada and his family later Monday.

Sitting beside his son, Nibal Awada thanked security bodies, including the Army and police as well as Speaker Nabih Berri and Mikati for their efforts to release his son.

“Had security bodies and political parties not applied pressure, I believe he wouldn’t have been released as quickly,” Awada said. He did not allow reporters to speak to his son.

The father refused to divulge the amount of the ransom, but said the kidnappers had demanded a higher ransom at first.

The sources said Awada handed $250,000 to an unidentified man riding a motorcycle under Salim Salam Bridge in Beirut before heading to the Fiat Bridge on the eastern border of the capital to pick up his son.

The father, a wealthy businessman who owns two garment factories, said the perpetrators gave him their “word of honor” that they would release his son upon receiving the ransom.

The sources said security bodies were pursuing the perpetrators after they identified them by tapping their phone conversations with the child’s family. A second abduction also ended Monday, according to the National News Agency, when Qassem Ghaddar said he escaped his captors in the Baalbek region. Ghaddar’s brother had reported him missing Sunday night.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 26, 2013, on page 1.

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