Turkish man held in Lebanon to be released

September 10, 2012, Monday/ 17:05:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

A Turkish national abducted by unknown gunmen in Lebanon was to be released on Monday or possibly Tuesday, according to a report by the An Nahar daily.

The report indicates that General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim informed Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati that a Turkish hostage would be released and handed over to the country's General Security, and brought back to Turkey accompanied by a European man of Syrian origin.

The report did not identify the Turkish hostage, but it is believed that the hostage is a truck driver, who was kidnapped by gunmen in Choueifat, a suburb southeast of Beirut. The driver, identified as Abdülbasit Arslan, was driving an oil truck when he was kidnapped along with a Syrian national traveling with him.   

Sources, however, in an interview with Today's Zaman dismissed the report saying, “It is nothing more than rumor. There is no official confirmation as to the release of the kidnapped citizen.”

According to the anonymous source, the rumor spread after Lebanon's prime minister said that the hostages would be released soon. However according to the source, the prime minister was referring to Lebanese people abducted in Syria, rather than to the abducted Turkish man. “The prime minister's words were misinterpreted, and lead to the idea that the abducted Turkish citizen is to be released,” the source said emphasizing it is not true.

Another Turkish businessman, Aydın Tufan tekin, who was kidnapped by the al-Meqdad clan, is still being held by the family's military wing despite claims it lost contact with the party holding the man following an army raid on the Rweiss neighborhood of Beirut's southern suburbs.

Tekin was kidnapped by the Meqdad clan last month in a response to the abduction of a member of the clan allegedly by the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA) in Damascus. On Saturday, Lebanese troops launched an operation to find the hostages after clashes between the Meqdad and Sinu clans on Friday. They failed to get them back, the Meqdad clan's spokesperson Mahir al-Meqdad is reported as saying. He also added that the hostages including Tekin escaped during the clashes.

The source talking to Today's Zaman dismissed this news as well as saying that Tekin is most probably still with the clan.

The Turkish men and several other Syrians were kidnapped in retaliation to the abduction of Hassan al-Meqdad by Syrian rebels in Damascus last month.

The spate of kidnappings began on May 22 when 11 Lebanese pilgrims were abducted by the rebel FSA in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo while on their way home from Iran. 

One of the pilgrims was released last month after the Turkish government got involved in the release talks. Turkish government has officially restated that it will do its best for the safe release of all Lebanese nationals currently being held hostage in Syria.

There are currently 10 Lebanese, including the family of Hassan al-Meqdad, brother of al-Meqdad, missing in Syria. Besides Tekin, over 20 Syrians have also been abducted in order to pressure the Syrians into releasing the Lebanese hostages.

According to An Nahar, one or two more hostages could be set free following the release of the Turkish man abducted in Lebanon.

Lebanese grand mufti criticizes Meqdad clan for missing Turkish man

Lebanese grand mufti Mohammad Rashid Qabbani has slammed the Meqdad clan for the abduction of Tekin, with the Friday clashes making the fate of the missing man unclear and raising further concerns about the impact of the Syrian crisis on its neighboring countries.

"Turkey is not a country that kidnaps and it has nothing to do with the abduction of the 10 Lebanese in Syria,” Qabbani told reporters after his meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in Ankara.

He added that Turkey is making efforts to secure the release of the Lebanese and that it was not right to treat Turkey as if it were the kidnapper.

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