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Lebanon Works to Free Kidnapped Shi'ites in Syria

Beirut has asked Turkey to help free 11 Shi'ite tourists who were kidnapped in Syria Wednesday.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 5/24/2012, 4:34 PM

Demonstrators protest near Aleppo
Demonstrators protest near Aleppo
Reuters

Beirut has asked Turkey to help free 11 Shi'ite tourists who were kidnapped in Syria Wednesday.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour told reporters he had spoken with his counterpart in Ankara about a group of Lebanese religious tourists who were pulled from their bus Sunday by a group of armed Syrians.

At least 11 men and their Syrian driver were taken in the Aleppo province, while on their way back to Lebanon from a pilgrimage in Iran. The 34 women in the group were set free, and returned to Beirut early Wednesday.

Although a relative of one of the hostages told Reuters the Free Syrian Army had carried out the kidnapping, the FSA denied the charge. “The FSA is not at all responsible for the operation,” Mustafa al-Sheikh told the BBC on Wednesday. “We condemn this abduction, which does not represent the values of the revolution.”

It is not really clear who is holding the hostages.

In another operation, three Iranian truck drivers were also kidnapped on Wednesday, according to an Iranian diplomat in Damascus.

Mansour said he has also contacted a number of officials from Arab nations who are supporting the rebel forces in Syria. Among them is the wealthy Gulf nation of Qatar.

Officials on both sides of the Sunni-Shi'ite sectarian conflict in Lebanon, meanwhile, are making efforts to quiet the situation in that country.

When protesters in Lebanon burned tires on the road upon hearing that Shi'ite pilgrims that been kidnapped, Hizbullah terror chief Hassan Nasrallah quickly issued a statement calling for calm.

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Sa'ad Hariri, who remains the de facto head of the Sunni community in Lebanon, also condemned the kidnapping.