The kidnappers of the seven Estonians have uploaded a video to Youtube showing them pleading with regional and world leaders to secure their release.
Estonia’s Foreign Ministry Wednesday confirmed that the seven men in the video, which was posted late Tuesday, were the tourists who had been abducted last month in Lebanon, AFP reported.
The ministry added that it had been sent a copy of the video Tuesday night.
A security source told The Daily Star that security bodies had begun to “examine the recording as soon as they learned of it,” while focusing on the details of the posting and the camera equipment that was used.
The video, which ran for one minute and 47 seconds and was later removed from the website, showed seven middle-aged men dressed in what appeared to be cycling jackets.
One of the men at the forefront of the group addressed the camera, periodically lowering his gaze as though reading off a sheet of paper.
“Turning to you, [caretaker] Prime Minister of Lebanon Saad Hariri, the king of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah [bin Abdel-Aziz], the king of Jordan, King Abdullah [II], the president of France, Mr. [Nicholas] Sarkozy, please do anything to help us to get back home and please give them what they have asked for … Do everything to get us back home to our family as soon as possible,” the Estonian said in the video.
The seven appeared disheveled, tired and scared but unharmed.
“Please help us,” each of the seven Estonians pleaded close to the end of the video.
“Please help us to get home, we’re looking for our families, please do whatever needs to get us back home,” one of the distressed Estonians said.
“This is a really difficult situation, please do anything, do everything what it takes to get us home,” another member said.
Speaking to The Daily Star Wednesday, Sami Kammouh, the Estonian consul in Lebanon, said he hoped the leaders named in the video would respond to the abductees’ pleas.
“We hope that they respond to their pleas,” Kammouh said. The Estonian envoy added that a political motive could not be discounted in the case of the abducted Estonians, saying: “Because they pleaded to prominent figures, their [the kidnappers’] demand must be bigger [than money].”
The Estonian Foreign Ministry said it was investigating where the videos had been posted from.
“Several institutions are dealing now with the question of finding out from where the video was posted onto the Internet. We do not wish to comment from which email address we got the video,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Minna-Lind was quoted by AFP as saying.
Lebanese authorities have charged 11 people, four of them still at large, with kidnapping the tourists at gunpoint and shooting at a security force patrol that was chasing them.
The video, which was posted under the username TheKidnaper2011, appeared online hours after Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet wrapped up a trip to Lebanon, during which he said there were no new leads on the fate of the seven Estonian cyclists who were abducted on March 23.
He travelled on to Abu Dhabi for a meeting of European Union and Gulf Cooperation Council nations.
“It appears from the video that all seven abducted Estonian citizens are alive and well. However, it is not known when the clip was recorded,” Paet said in a statement Wednesday.
“The message did not include the conditions of the victims’ release, any demands, or information on who is behind the abduction,” he said.
Speaking to reporters in Tallinn, Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves said: “No requests have been made to Estonian authorities in regard of the kidnapping.”
Kammouh told The Daily Star that Europeans were the kidnaper’s initial target but “it happened that these [cyclists] were Estonians.”
“They might demand to free someone in Europe or demand a ransom but it’s a bigger thing,” Kammouh said, adding that officials would not stop until they got to the bottom of the case.
A previously unheard of group, Haraket Al-Nahda Wal-Islah (Movement for Renewal and Reform), has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and demanded an unspecified ransom to free the seven Estonians.
The claim was emailed to Lebanon Files but has not been authenticated by officials. Abductions have been rare in Lebanon since the end of the 15-year Civil War.
By Dana Khreiche