BEIRUT

Lebanon News

Hostage’s release paves way for freeing Lebanese

Tukin after his release. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: Turkish businessman Aydin Tufan Tekin flew to Turkey early Wednesday along with Interior Minister Marwan Charbel and Turkish Ambassador Inan Ozyildiz hours after the Meqdad clan, under pressure from the Army, freed the hostage.

A security source told The Daily Star that Charbel was likely to bring back with him some of the 10 Lebanese pilgrims snatched near Aleppo some four months ago.

The remaining pilgrims will also be freed once the second Turkish hostage Abdulbasit Arslan is set free, the source added.

Charbel had said earlier that Tekin’s release would pave the way for the release of all Lebanese currently held by anti-regime rebels in Syria.

Tekin was handed by the Meqdad clan to General Security forces in an area near Beirut Tuesday evening. He was then escorted to the General Security headquarters where he was received by the Turkish ambassador.

Arslan, a bus driver, was abducted by a group that identified itself as “Mukhtar al-Thaqafi Brigades.”

The little-known group, believed to be affiliated with families of the Lebanese pilgrims held in Syria, said earlier Tuesday it had freed Arslan along with 10 Syrians they kidnapped in July.

“We will receive the other hostage Wednesday morning. We have shown good intentions and we will fly both of them to Turkey and we hope to come back with good results,” Charbel said.

The hostages will be accompanied by Charbel, General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, and Turkish Ambassador to Lebanon Inan Ozyildiz.

“We expect all the Lebanese in Syria to be freed soon ... not only the 10 pilgrims but also Hassan Meqdad,” the interior minister said. Following Hassan Meqdad’s abduction by anti-regime rebels in Syria, members of his clan kidnapped Tekin and several Syrians in a bid to pressure the captors.

Charbel said he did not want to provide further details on the fate of the Lebanese hostages in Syria, but promised to update the media accordingly.

“As you all know this issue is sensitive. We will keep you posted step by step.”

Prime Minister Najib Mikati received phone calls late Tuesday from his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who thanked him for Tekin’s release.

Tekin, who spoke to reporters upon his arrival in Beirut, called for the release of the Lebanese held in Syria. “I ask on the governments in the world and the Syrian opposition to free all Lebanese in Syria,” he said.

Tekin thanked the Lebanese and Turkish governments for securing his release and said he was not subjected to any pressure or physical torture while he was held.

Meanwhile, Ozyildiz said Turkey would continue to help Lebanon secure the release of all hostages in Syria. “I would like to thank the Lebanese Army, the General Security, and the government for working hard to release a Turkish hostage in Beirut, and Turkish authorities will continue to help Lebanon win the release of all Lebanese held in Syria,” the Turkish envoy said.

Earlier Tuesday, the Lebanese Army freed four Syrians kidnapped by the Meqdad clan. In a statement, the Army said it “freed four kidnapped Syrians after raiding a location in Hay al-Sellum following surveillance and follow-ups.”

The Army unit and Directorate of Intelligence arrested two people in the same area. The two are suspected of involvement in the abductions.

In an interview with MTV station, the freed Syrians denied any affiliation with the FSA and said that they had been tortured during their captivity. They also said that the “Meqdad clan forced them to claim membership in the Free Syrian Army.

“They accused me of being a captain in the FSA, although I had nothing to do with them,” said Mohammad Abdel-Latif Musa, one of the released Syrians.

Maher Hasan Rabih, another former captive, said he worked as a concierge, also denying any affiliation with the Syrian rebels.

“They said you have to say that [you are an FSA member] or else we will shoot you,” Rabih told the TV station.

Ibrahim Yehya al-Ahmad said he had been kidnapped in Mreijeh during Eid al-Fitr, adding that he “was subjected to severe physical torture.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 12, 2012, on page 1.

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