Aug 31 2012
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Charbel: Efforts under way to free hostages all at once
31 August 2012
BEIRUT: Efforts are being made to win the release of the remaining 11 Lebanese hostages in Syria all at once, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said Thursday, maintaining his optimism that the ordeal of the men being held would come to a positive end soon.
“There is positive information [on the hostage issue]. I am satisfied with the progress of contacts with Turkish authorities,” Charbel told The Daily Star. But he declined to set an exact date as to when the 11 remaining hostages would be freed by their captors.
Charbel added that a ministerial committee tasked with resolving the issue of Lebanese hostages held by Syrian rebels was in contact with the Turkish side on a daily basis.
Hopes for an end to the issue of the Lebanese hostages in Syria have risen since last week’s release of one hostage.
Riad Asaad, commander of the rebel Free Syrian Army, also struck an upbeat note Tuesday about the release of the 10 Lebanese pilgrims and Hasan Meqdad, who was abducted separately on Aug. 13, saying “a strong initiative” was under way to free them soon.
Omar was released on Aug. 25 by the FSA, who kidnapped the 11 Shiite pilgrims shortly after they crossed into Syria from Turkey on May 22 on their way back to Lebanon from a pilgrimage to Iran. The rebel group said that Omar’s release came in response to a request by the head of the Committee of Muslim Scholars in Lebanon Sheikh Hasan Qaterji.
Lebanon’s Shiite Meqdad clan kidnapped more than 20 Syrian nationals and a Turkish businessman in Lebanon earlier this month in retaliation for the kidnapping of their relative.
The clan has released all but four Syrian hostages and the Turkish businessman in order to press for the release of Hasan Meqdad.
The clan said the four Syrians were linked to the FSA. Another Turkish national was kidnapped by a Shiite group for leverage over the release of the Lebanese hostages in Syria. The Meqdad clan contends that Turkey is the only country with influence over the Syrian opposition.
Meanwhile, the issue of the Lebanese hostages was discussed during a meeting Thursday between Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, chief of General Security, and Turkish Ambassador to Lebanon Inan Ozyildiz.
Ozyildiz did not speak to reporters after the meeting. However, the Turkish ambassador said Monday that Turkey had no influence over the captors of the Lebanese hostages, adding that the abduction of Turkish citizens in Lebanon had done nothing to help secure the release of the Lebanese.© Copyright The Daily Star 2012.
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