BEIRUT: The son of a local merchant was kidnapped for a second time over the weekend, reportedly by a local gang his father had previously hired to threaten a business partner.
Firas Dergham, 19, of Baalbek, was taken by a group that included members of the Jaafar clan, a powerful Shiite family in the northern Bekaa. The gang is demanding $10,000 from Dergham’s father Duraid for “services rendered,” sources close to the case told The Daily Star.
Duraid had contracted the gang to collect LL90 million allegedly owed to him by Ahmad Saleh, who is wanted by the authorities, the sources said.
Saleh and Duraid were reportedly working in the electricity generator business together when they had a falling out over money.
The gang was unable to secure the money and the dispute between Duraid and Saleh was eventually resolved by other means. When the gang demanded that Duraid pay them their “fee” for threatening Saleh, he refused.
The group kidnapped his son for the first time several months ago, but released him when Duraid appeared to cave, promising to pay the money that was being demanded. When he failed to follow through, the gang kidnapped Firas once more.
Kidnapping for ransom or as a means of exerting pressure in inter-family disputes is not uncommon in the northern Bekaa Valley, which is dominated by several clans. Earlier this year, the Jaafar clan kidnapped over a dozen residents of the nearby town of Arsal after one of their own was kidnapped from the area by Syrian rebels, allegedly with the help of Arsal residents. That standoff was resolved and all the captives returned to their homes.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 13, 2013, on page 4.