Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiya was the first to announce on Friday that “the Qatari mediation has led to the release of the nine Lebanese” hostages who were abducted in Syria’s Aazaz .
Al-Jazeera television which is owned by Qatar reported the story in a breaking news headline without elaborating any further.
Turkish officials who were involved in the negotiation of the release of the Lebanese hostages told Al Liwa newspaper that Qatar paid $150 million to the kidnappers to secure the release of the pilgrims who were kidnapped in northern Syria in May 2012 while on their way to Lebanon from Iran
Lebanese General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim who was earlier on Friday in damascus to discuss with his Syrian counterpart General Ali Mamlouk the release of the nine Lebanese pilgrims, headed to Turkey to meet with the abductees after crossing the (Syrian-Turkish) border.
In addition to the ransom the deal included the release of 282 women detainees in Syrian prisons.
According to the deal the two Turkish pilots who were kidnapped last August by the relatives of the nine lebanese hostages will be handed over by the abductors to Ibrahim who will in turn hand them over to the Turkish authorities.
A group called Zuwwar al-Imam Rida said last August that it was behind the kidnapping of two Turkish pilots in Beirut, saying they would be freed in exchange for the pilgrims.
“Very positive developments are under way in the case of the pilots; this matter has largely been settled,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Turkish television following the announcement of the deal
Ibrahim thanked Qatar and Turkey for their roles in the release of the Lebanese hostages . He also thanked Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas for his effort and Syria reportedly for cooperating in the release of the women prisoners .
The Qatar Foreign minister along with Ibrahim will accompany the freed pilgrims from Turkey to Lebanon as soon as the all the procedures required to complete the ransom deal are finalized
The news was greeted with jubilation in Hezbollah’s stronghold in Dhahieh, southern Beirut, where relatives of some of those kidnapped live. Preparations are underway in Dhahieh to celebrate the arrival of the Lebanese Shiite pilgrims.
LBCI reported that General Security chief Ibrahim revealed that he is working on resolving the case of the two bishops abducted in Aleppo, saying that they are doing well and that his recent trip to Belgium was linked to the issue.
LBCI also reported that the freed Shiite pilgrims will return to Lebanon on board a private Qatari jet accompanied by General Ibrahim and Qatari FM Khaled al-Attiya.