The ringleader of the gang that kidnapped the seven Estonian tourists, Wael Abbas, stayed in the custody of the Syrian authorities for 20 days before being handed over to Lebanon’s General Security Department last week, official sources said.
The sources told pan-Arab daily al-Hayat published Monday that Syrian authorities questioned Abbas over his fake Venezuelan passport and other documents after Qatar arrested him at Doha airport and deported him to Syria.
Abbas was trying to flee to Brazil and was on a transit in Doha when airport authorities uncovered his fake ID carrying the name of al-Fliti hailing from the Lebanese eastern town of Arsal.
The sources said that Doha airport police questioned him for four hours and put him on the first plane to Damascus. When he arrived to Syria, authorities there kept Abbas in their custody for 20 days and then handed him over to Lebanon last Wednesday.
The Internal Security Forces Intelligence Branch is now questioning him, the sources told al-Hayat. But they refused to give further details about his confessions.
The seven Estonians were abducted in the eastern Bekaa Valley on March 23, hours after entering Lebanon from Syria on a bicycle tour and were held for nearly four months before being released on July 14.
An Nahar newspaper has said that Abbas is the leader of a six-member gang that kidnapped the Estonians at the expense of a bigger and more dangerous network.
His arrest raised the number of those executed the abduction to four. The other two remain out of sight.
Six suspects from the larger network are also in custody, An Nahar said although it stressed that the number of those who are at large is much higher.
Three of them have been killed in clashes with the Intelligence Branch. They are Kanan Yassine, Munir Jalloul and Darwish Khanjar.