Group kidnapped by Syrian militants in East Lebanon released
The group of Lebanese and Syrians kidnapped Tuesday in Ras Baalbek were released, except for the owner of the quarry, the National News Agency reported.
Those released were two Lebanese from the village of Arsal, three Syrians, and one person of Turkish origins. As for the quarry owner Mikhael Mourad, efforts were underway to release him, according to the NNA.
An armed group of Syrians had kidnapped the group early on Tuesday from the village resting in east Lebanon, but three of them were able to escape hours later, security sources told The Daily Star.
Citing preliminary investigation, the sources said eleven people in total were abducted, nine Syrians and two Lebanese. However, three of the abducted, Syrian Kurds, were able to escape.
They were all abducted from the outskirts of Ras Baalbek village, where they were working in a quarry belonging to Lebanese national Rifaat Meshrif.
The sources identified the abducted Lebanese nationals as Mikhael Mourad from Ras Baablek and a resident from Arsal. The kidnappers also stole five vehicles from the quarry; three trucks, a pick-up truck and a bulldozer.
The kidnappers were a group of Syrian gunmen who have taken shelter in the heights of the Ras Baalbek outskirts, the sources said. The Lebanese Army has launched a manhunt for the kidnappers.
Some residents of the town told The Daily Star that the kidnappers were members of the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, which they said had infiltrated the mountains bordering the town.
Ras Baalbek’s Mayor Hisham Arjaa said he did not foresee counter kidnappings in the village, saying only five Syrians were among the abducted.
“We live in a secure town here in Ras Baalbek,” he told The Daily Star, referring to the many Lebanese Army posts scattered in the town.
Ras Baalbek is a primarily Greek Catholic town located a few kilometers away from the eastern mountain range along Lebanon’s porous border with Syria.
An estimated 300 families have resided in Ras Baalbek since the conflict began in Syria and the town has remained relatively safe from the repercussions of the crisis compared to other eastern villages.