Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said that the kidnapping of the two Turkish pilots took place inside Hezbollah’s statelet and the militant group was involved in the kidnapping of Turkish pilots in Beirut in one way or another.
“Hezbollah is involved in one way or another in the kidnapping which took place inside the statelet of Hezbollah who would never miss any detail related to security,” Geagea told As-Safir newspaper in remarks published Monday.
Geagea also added that the kidnapping must have been conducted by an organized armed group, in reference to Hezbollah.
“The kidnapping was pre-planned and executed meticulously [by] an organized armed group,” Geagea said.
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. But the Hezbollah chief rejected their demand during a speech on June 1, 2012 when he said : “If this kidnapping operation seeks to pressure us into changing our stance ( in supporting Assad) it failed”.
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 Jean Ogassapian pointed fingers at Hezbollah on Saturday and said the abduction of the Turkish Airlines pilots in Beirut bore the hallmarks of the militant Shiite group.