BEIRUT: A man being held hostage for ransom was freed Wednesday evening after Lebanese Army Intelligence units confronted his captors in Baalbek.
The raid on the armed group came hours after Cabinet summoned the country’s top security chiefs to Baabda Palace to discuss a crackdown to end a spate of kidnappings in Lebanon.
“The directorate of [Army] Intelligence succeeded in finding the location of the captive Fouad Daoud in Tal al-Abiad in Baalbek and engaged his captors in collaboration with an Army patrol,” the Army said in a statement.
“As the kidnapped was freed, the Army arrested one of the captors and is still on the hunt for the others involved in the kidnapping.”
A security source told The Daily Star one of the arrested kidnappers was identified by his last name, Alwa.
Daoud, 45, was abducted last week in the Bekaa city of Zahle. The kidnappers had demanded $250,000 in ransom in several phone conversations they had with Daoud’s children. Daoud was reunited with his family after his rescue.
As Zahle’s political and religious figures called for a day-long strike and a demonstration in front of the city’s Serail over Daoud’s abduction the government stepped up its efforts to free him from his captors.
The kidnapping crisis took center stage during Cabinet’s session, where both President Michel Sleiman and premier Najib Mikati called for putting a stop to the recent spate of abductions.
Prior to the Cabinet meeting , which was held at 4 p.m. at Baabda Palace, Mikati discussed the kidnappings with Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi and senior security officers at the Grand Serail.
“The kidnap-for-ransom phenomenon damages the prestige of the state and [strikes at] the heart of stability,” Mikati said at the end of the meeting.
“The security services must take stringent and precautionary measures to prevent the recurrence of such condemnable incidents,” he added.
Charbel said after the meeting that no kidnappings would take place in the country “from now on.”
The most recent kidnapping victim is Ali Ahmad Mansour, a 73-year-old financier who was taken in the Bekaa Valley Tuesday. His captors are demanding $15 million for his release.
A Lebanese man abducted earlier in the week in the Metn region northeast of Beirut was freed Tuesday after his family paid a ransom of $400,000.
Youssef Beshara’s ransom was paid by his daughter in the southern suburbs of Beirut Tuesday.
Beshara, brother of Anis Beshara who owns a popular chain of bakeries, was kidnapped over the weekend while driving in Bsalim, northeast of Beirut.
Later in Baabda, the country’s top security chiefs, including Internal Security Forces commander Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi; director of General Security Brig. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim; and Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi, joined the Cabinet meeting for an hour.Security chiefs were asked by Sleiman and Mikati to boost cooperation to tackle the kidnappings. During their meeting with the ministers, the security chiefs asked the government to grant them access to telecoms data and allow them to monitor the sale of unregistered mobile numbers.
The Cabinet, which had 47-items on its agenda, also approved $1.6 billion for the Army to finance equipment.
According to government officials, the fund will be paid in four installments: $100 million in 2013, $300 million in the second year, $500 million in 2015 and the last installment would be $700 million in 2016.
Despite the objections of some ministers, the Cabinet also approved a Lebanese-French defense cooperation agreement that had been the subject of dispute between rival factions within the government over the past year.
“Some amendments should be made to the defense cooperation agreement between Lebanon and France,” said State Minister Mohammad Fneish, who objected to its approval Wednesday.
Cabinet also agreed to increase Lebanon’s financial contribution to the International Monetary Fund and designated $10 million in state funds for the Finance Ministry to be used for financing the country’s Capital Markets Authority.