The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon UNIFIL told An Nahar in remarks published on Monday that the Turkish Engineering Construction Unit started withdrawing from South Lebanon and is expected to complete its withdrawing by September 3.
“The withdrawal of the Turkish Engineering Construction Unit will be completed by September 3 while Turkish troops will continue to serve in the UNIFIL Maritime Task Force,” UNIFIL Spokesperson told An Nahar
The Turkish Engineering Construction Unit started serving with the UNIFIL in 2006 and has since provided great support to the troops for its experience and expertise UNIFIL told the daily
The kidnapping of two Turkish pilots by a group linked to the relatives of the hostages accelerated the move by Turkey to pull its engineering unit from UNIFIL, the Spokesperson told An Nahar.
A previously unknown group “Visitors ( Zouwar) of Imam al-Rida ” which claimed responsibility for kidnapping the two Turkish pilots issued a statement saying that the (Turkish ) pilots “will only be released when the Lebanese hostages in Syria return to Lebanon.
11 Shiite pilgrims 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. Two have since been released.
Turkey which had nothing to do with the kidnapping , was accused by the relatives of not doing enough to free the pilgrims.
Turkey also supports the Syrian rebels who are seeking to overthrow the regime of embattled president Bashar al Assad while the Shiite Hezbollah militant group which reportedly has a hand in the kidnapping of the Turkish pilots is fighting alongside the Syrian regime against the rebels
Photo: Families of the nine Lebanese Shiite hostages held by Syrian rebels in the Aleppo district of Azaz protest against the Turkish UNIFIL forces in south Lebanon. They threatened unspecified action against Turkish interests in Lebanon if the hostages are not released.