Last updated: 18 August, 2012

Three Syrians kidnapped on Beirut airport road

Three Syrians kidnapped by armed men in Beirut were freed on Saturday, Lebanon’s state NNA news agency reported, after a wave of mass kidnappings linked to the Syria conflict earlier this week.

The three men, who had been seized by a gang of at least five men from a banana storehouse on the road to Beirut international airport on Friday, were freed after their money was stolen, NNA said.

The abduction came days after a Shiite clan kidnapped around 20 Syrians in Lebanon in retaliation for the abduction of a family member by a Syrian rebel group which accused him of being a Hezbollah sniper.

Two Turks have also been kidnapped, at least one of them by the Muqdad clan.

The wave of abductions led several Gulf countries to order their nationals to leave Lebanon amid fears of growing insecurity, while Turkey and the United States also warned of possible attacks against their citizens.

The airport road is near an area controlled by the Lebanese fundamentalist Shiite group Hezbollah, which has insisted it cannot control the “reactions” of people to the events in Lebanon.

Gulf nationals, who flock to Lebanon to escape the blistering summer heat at home, are now fleeing after threats particularly against Saudis and Qataris whose governments are strong opponents of the regime of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.

In addition to Muqdad clan abductions, several dozen other Syrians were reportedly kidnapped and shops and cars belonging to Syrians damaged after unverified reports that some of a group of Lebanese Shiite pilgrims kidnapped in May had been killed in an air strike in northern Syria this week.

Lebanese speaker Nabih Berri said on Saturday he had been informed by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, while visiting Turkey, that the pilgrims were alive and safe.