HERMEL, Lebanon: Over a dozen hostages hailing from the northeastern town of Arsal were released Sunday in exchange for a member of the Moqdad clan, security sources said, bringing to a close a spate of retaliatory abductions in the Bekaa Valley.
Youssef Moqdad, whose kidnapping last week prompted his clan to grab over a dozen Arsal residents, was released to a delegation from Arsal Sunday morning, after having spent days as a captive in the Syrian border village of Maara, the sources said.
He later rejoined his family after his clan handed Arsal’s mayor 16 of the towns’ residents.
Moqdad, who was first handed over to Arsal Mayor Ali Hujeiri, said his kidnapping aimed at provoking strife in the region.
“The kidnappers asked me if I had any ties with Hezbollah and their aim was to provoke strife in Arsal and neighboring towns,” he said.
Moqdad said he was subjected to abuse during his forced detention.
“I was held captive in the Sahl Rankous area in Syria and I was beaten up,” he said.
“I thank Flita [in Syria] sheikhs for helping in my release and I thank all those who contributed to my release,” Moqdad said upon his return from Syria.
Hujeiri, for his part, hailed Moqdad’s release and called for an end to kidnappings in the Bekaa Valley.
Moqdad's abduction was linked to a probe into the June killing of four Shiites in the area of Wadi Rafik.
Hujeiri had said earlier that three Arsal residents - Hassan Hussein Rayed, Omar Ahmad al-Atrash and Sami al-Atrash – were allegedly involved in the quadruple murder, along with several Syrians.
According to Hujeiri, Omar al-Atrash kidnapped Moqdad “as a reaction to the investigation.”
The hostage swap in Arsal took place in coordination with Lebanese Army intelligence, the sources said.