“We will protect Turkish nationals in Lebanon. We will protect everyone, even the Lebanese,” Charbel said on Saturday following a meeting with Turkish Ambassador to Lebanon Inan Auzildiseat at his residence in Hazmieh.
“We will free the Turkish abductees when we locate them… the Lebanese state is doing its best to free them.”
Early on Friday, gunmen stopped a bus boarded it and kidnapped a pilot and a co-pilot working for Turkish Airlines on Beirut’s airport road, Lebanon’s caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel told reporters . They were riding the bus from Rafic Hariri International Airport to their hotel when the assailants in two vehicles stopped it.
An unknown group that goes by the name of “Visitors ( Zouwar) of Imam al-Rida ” claimed responsibility for the kidnapping .Lebanon’s National News Agency NNA said on Friday that the this group issued a statement saying that the (Turkish ) pilots “will only be released when the Lebanese hostages in Syria return to Lebanon.
It appears that this group is connected to the relatives of the 11 Shiite pilgrims who were kidnapped in Syria in May 2012 on their way from Iran to Lebanon. Turkey was involved in trying to help the Lebanese government in its negotiation to free the pilgrims from the Syrian rebels who kidnapped them in an Aleppo province.
Turkey which had nothing to do with the kidnapping , was accused by the relatives of not doing enough to free the pilgrims and for this reason they arranged during the past several months several rallies, sit-ins and protests against Turkish Airlines and the Turkish embassy in Beirut to pressure the Turkish government to do more.
The Syrian rebels released 2 of the kidnapped pilgrims and claimed that the remaining 9 Shiite pilgrims were members of Hezbollah and promised to release as soon as Hezbollah will quit supporting the Syrian regime in its deadly crackdown against the uprising.
One of the spokespersons for the Shiite pilgrims’ relatives , Sheikh Abbas Zgheib who is a also a member of the Highest Shiite council said the relatives of the kidnapped pilgrims support the abduction of the pilots
“So far, there is no indication of any involvement of the [Shiite pilgrims’] relatives in the kidnapping of the Turkish airplane’s pilot and his co-pilot,” Zgheib told the National News Agency on Friday .
“The Shiite pilgrims’ relatives support the kidnapping, especially if it aims at putting an end to the detention of their relatives in Syria.” He said .
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