BEIRUT: The Meqdad clan of east Lebanon’s Bekaa region said Wednesday it had kidnapped over 30 Syrians it described as being members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in retaliation for the kidnapping in Syria of one of its kinsmen earlier this week. It also said it had a Saudi and Turkish national in its custody.
Meanwhile, both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates urged its citizen to leave Lebanon amid tightened security measures by Lebanese authorities of the embassies of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar.
“We have more than 30 Syrian rebels, some of whom have been wounded in the confrontations with the Syrian regime,” Maher Meqdad, a member of and spokesperson for the family, told The Daily Star.
Beirut-based AlMayadeen aired footage Wednesday of two of the men the Meqdad family claimed to have kidnapped.
In the video, one of the Syrians urged the FSA to release Hassan.
Members of the Meqdad clan claim that their kinsman Hassan Meqdad was kidnapped by Syrian rebels Monday in Damascus.
On Tuesday, Al-Arabiya television reported that Hassan, whom it described as a member of Hezbollah, was detained by the FSA in Syria. Hezbollah denies Hassan is a member of the resistance group, as does his family.
The FSA also denied Wednesday reports that it had detained Hassan.
“We have nothing to do with the kidnapping of that man,” spokesman for the FSA Col. Fahd Masri told LBCI television.
He said information made available to the FSA indicates that Hassan was kidnapped Monday in Damascus near the shrine of Sayyida Zainab.
Maher Meqdad, who said his family fields an armed wing, told The Daily Star that the Meqdads had taken matters into their own hands, as the government had taken no steps to free their kinsman.
“We will do it ourselves, and we have what you can call a regulated army to do the job,” he said.
Meqdad said that his family is acting according to the “eye for an eye” principle, and no longer needs the Lebanese government to intervene in order to secure the release of Hassan.
Asked about negotiations, Maher said now was not the right time.
“It is not the right time to talk; we still have to get some things done,” Maher said.
He said Hassan’s kidnappers had initially tried to contact the family but that the clan is refraining from pursuing negotiations.
He also said the Cabinet had not exerted the required efforts to get back the eleven Lebanese kidnapped in Syria in May.
“We also call for setting them free, but our son remains the priority for us,” he said.
Conflicting reports emerged Wednesday on the fate with of the 11 pilgrims who were kidnapped in Syrian on May 22.
Maher said the Meqdads had set a 48-hour deadline for Hassan’s release but did not say what further steps the clan would take.
Speaking to the media, the spokesman also held Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey responsible for Hassan’s kidnapping “because they support the FSA; therefore, we cannot guarantee that undisciplined members of the family’s military wing will not do something reckless.”
The Meqdads also said they had in custody a Saudi national and Turkish national.
The Turkish national, who was identified as Aidan Toufan, told LBC in an interview that the Meqdads were treating him as a guest.
While security services took the appropriate measures around embassies and diplomats’ residences, the embassies sent out text messages to their respective nationals urging them to inform them of their whereabouts, according to security sources.
Saudi Arabia urged its citizens to halt all visits to Lebanon and for those in the country to leave immediately.
The UAE issued a similar travel advisory to its citizens.
Saudi Ambassador Ali Awad al-Asiri, who is in Mecca, told the National News Agency that he requested that all Saudi nationals in Lebanon to leave the country after “the threats have become open.”
He also denied any knowledge “of Saudi nationals having been kidnapped in Lebanon.”