BEIRUT: The 11 Lebanese pilgrims kidnapped in Syria are safe, Foreign Affairs Minister Adnan Mansour said Thursday, however a spokesperson for kidnappers said that four of the abducted have been confirmed dead.
"We have today lifted four bodies of the 11 Lebanese kidnapped while seven others are in good condition," Mohammad Nour told LBC Television station Thursday afternoon.
However earlier in the day, Mansour told a local radio station that “I was informed by Turkey's Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmet Davutoglu at midnight that the 11 Lebanese are OK and safe and that reports published yesterday were false."
Lebanon’s LBC reported Wednesday that all 11 of the hostages were killed in an air raid. It also said they had been informed of the death of one of the kidnappers, Abu Ibrahim. Other local media said four of the hostages were killed in an air strike on Azaz in Aleppo, northwest Syria.
Speaking to LBCI TV, Brig. Ahmad Ghazaleh, a member of Azaz’s rebels, said that the Syrian Army had bombarded the area from the air which led to the killing of scores of people, including four of the abducted Lebanese pilgrims.
The 11 men were kidnapped on May 22 in Syria shortly after crossing from Turkey. They were heading back to Lebanon after a pilgrimage to Iran.
The conflicting reports of the pilgrims’ fate were met with anger on the streets of the capital Wednesday and the National News Agency reported that the relatives of the kidnapped pilgrims blocked roads both to and from the Beirut’s international airport.
Speaking to the local station, Mansour also said that Turkish officials have been mediating in the case since the abduction occurred.
“Turks have been mediating to release the kidnapped and are not part of the abduction process and they have asked us to be patient and calm to resolve the crisis,” he said.
This article was amended on Thursday, August 16 2012