Al-Jadeed (or New TV ) reported that Mohammed Saleh, a relative of one of the Lebanese hostages in Syria was arrested after authorities intercepted phone calls proving his link to the abductors of the two Turkish pilots .
Al-Jadeed also reported that the families of the Lebanese hostages in Syria’s e Aazaz were furious over the arrest and have given security agencies a one-hour deadline to release Saleh, threatening to obstruct aviation at the Beirut airport.
Early on Friday, 6 gunmen gunmen reportedly intercepted a bus , boarded it and kidnapped Turkish Airlines Pilot Murat Akpinar and his co-pilot Murat Agca ( who were on their way to their hotel in Beirut) at the Cocodi Bridge on Beirut’s airport road, less than a kilometer from Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport and drove off in in a silver BMW X3 and a black KIA Picanto.
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 appeared from the statement 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 them as soon as Hezbollah quits 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.
“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 .
March 14 MP Mohammad Kabbara proposed on Saturday activating the Renee Mouawad airport in Kleyate (Matar al-Qulay`at), , for international travel since the Rafik Hariri International Airport has become a haven for terrorists
Describing the abduction as a terrorist act par excellence Kabbara said the airport is infiltrated by terrorists from the control tower all the way to its porters. He added that the kidnapping took place few meters away from the army checkpoint and yet the army could not secure the safety of the pilots
It is worth noting that the Renee Mouawad airport in Kleyate has all the equipment needed to make it operational, according to a report in Arabic dated September 2012 by the chairman of the committee in charge of airport operation Hamid Bakkar Zakaria and all it needs is a political green light to obtain the needed aviation agreements to operate it.
March MP Jean Ogassapian pointed fingers at Hezbollah and said the abduction of the Turkish Airlines pilots in Beirut bore the hallmarks of the militant Shiite group.
Update:Al Mustaqbal newspaper reported that the Internal Security Forces has been able to identify all the kidnappers of the Turkish pilots and has already arrested Mohammed Saleh, a suspect who is a relative of the Lebanese hostages in Syria. But the person behind the kidnapping is Ali Jamil Saleh , a son of one of the hostages.
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