BEIRUT: Three Syrian opposition figures were released shortly after being abducted in the Bekaa Valley Monday, the state-run National News Agency said Tuesday, while three other Syrians, identified as Tarek Annad, Ahmad Naser and Farid Mustafa Naser, were abducted in Beirut’s southern suburbs Monday night.
The three men released in the Bekaa, who are from the Syrian city of Hama, were believed to have been kidnapped in retaliation for the abduction of 11 Lebanese Shiites near Aleppo in May.
Mohammad al-Ali, Rifaat al-Mohammad and Saddam al-Khleif were kidnapped by armed individuals driving a van with Syrian plates near the Bekaa town of Al-Bazaliya close to the border. All three were handed to the Lebanese Army on the international highway linking Damascus to Beirut.
Media reports said Monday evening the abduction would be used to pressure the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian opposition groups to release the 11 Lebanese still being held by rebels.
The “Brigade of al-Mukhtar al-Thaqafi” claimed responsibility for the abduction in the Bekaa, according to several media outlets.
The Beirut-based Arabic correspondent for Russia Today television channel received a message warning that the abduction could be the beginning of further attacks targeting Syrian opposition members in Lebanon.
“This is only the beginning ... All those involved with the Syrian opposition in Lebanon or those who support it will be targeted until the 11 abducted [pilgrims] return safely to their homes,” said a message sent to the Russia Today correspondent.
On their way back to Lebanon from a pilgrimage in Iran, 11 men were grabbed from their buses in the Aleppo province.
The kidnappers have released three videos of the pilgrims over the past two months showing that the men were in good health, but they announced over the weekend that the Lebanese hostages would only be released when Syrian President Bashar Assad is ousted from power.