BEIRUT/AZAZ: Turkish national Abdel-Basset Orsolan was freed Thursday when the armed group that held him captive for nearly a month handed him over to General Security, as the Army arrested the spokesperson of the Meqdad clan. “I thank the Army, the Lebanese government and the Turkish government for helping in my release,” a free Orsolan said upon his arrival at the General Security headquarters in Beirut.
Orsolan, who stood between Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, head of General Security, and Turkish Ambassador to Beirut Inan Ozyildiz, said he was not subjected to torture and was healthy during his detention.
“I am perfectly healthy and I hope all the Lebanese kidnapped in Syria will also be freed tomorrow,” he said. “I hope the Turkish government helps release the Lebanese kidnapped in Syria.”
Interior Minister Marwan Charbel and Ibrahim have said that the release of the two Turkish hostages – Orsolan is the second to be freed in three days – will pave the way for the freeing of the 10 Lebanese pilgrims still held in Syria, but no official has set a date.
A Syrian rebel commander holding the pilgrims said he is willing to release the men, but fears doing so could set off reprisal attacks by Sunni extremists.
Ammar al-Dadikhli, also known as Abu Ibrahim, said he was keeping the hostages out of fear for their own safety.
On Aug. 24, Abu Ibrahim released one of the hostages, 60-year-old Hussein Omar, to the Turkish authorities.
“After [Omar’s] release, the Northern Storm brigade began to receive threats from Sunni extremist groups in Lebanon, Iraq and some in Syria,” Abu Ibrahim told the Associated Press in an interview at a customs house in Azaz.
“They told us the hostages are members of Hezbollah and should be killed.
“We would like to make a deal and turn them over to one of the great powers, like the United States, to protect ourselves and them, so those extremists won’t harm them,” he said.
“If they are handed back to Lebanon, they will be targeted, but if they are given to a big country, it will be like an international deal.”
Orsolan was kidnapped shortly after the Meqdad clan, which claimed to have its own armed wing, abducted Turkish businessman Aydin Tufan Tekin in retaliation for the kidnapping of one of their clansmen, Hasan, in Damascus.
Orsolan was taken by a group that identified itself as the “Mukhtar al-Thaqafi Brigades.”
The Meqdads denied any involvement with his capture.
Tekin was freed Tuesday after the Meqdad clan, under pressure from the Army, handed him to General Security forces.
Following Orsolan’s release, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyep Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu telephoned Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Najib Mikati to thank them for the government’s efforts in freeing the Turkish hostages.
“What happened today is a step toward enforcing the government’s authority over all Lebanese territories,” Ibrahim told reporters, adding that “the release of the two Turkish hostages is not related to the Lebanese kidnapped in Syria.”
Shortly before Orsolan’s release, a group of Army Intelligence personnel arrested Maher Meqdad, the family’s spokesperson, after launching a raid on his house in the neighborhood of Haret Hreik in Beirut’s southern suburbs.
A statement said Army Commander General Jean Kahwagi ordered Army Intelligence to detain Meqdad in line with arrest warrants issued against him.
“In accordance with arrest warrants issued by the judiciary in the case of kidnappings and road blockings in recent weeks, and in accordance with the orders of Army commander General Jean Kahwagi, forces from the Army Intelligence succeeded in arresting Maher Meqdad,” the statement said.
According to the statement, Meqdad did not resist and no shots were fired during the raid. “Investigations are now under way to uncover the circumstances of the kidnappings and disruption of stability in the country,” the statement added. - The Daily Star, AP