Report: Deportation of Syrians Torpedoed Release of Lebanese Pilgrims

Posted on: August 04, 2012 at 02:33
The General Security Department’s deportation of 14 Syrians torpedoed efforts to release 11 Lebanese Shiite pilgrims kidnapped in Syria since May, An Nahar daily reported on Friday.

The Lebanese mediator involved in negotiations to set the men free was informed that the talks reached a dead-end following major progress made to secure the safe return of the pilgrims, the newspaper said.

The mediating side has close ties to high-ranking officials in the Syrian opposition that is battling the regime of President Bashar Assad since March last year, it said.

Lebanon deported the Syrians on Wednesday, drawing severe criticism from Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat and human rights activists.

The General Security said the reasons for the expulsions were not political but a Human Rights Watch representative in Beirut said some of the deportees had expressed fears of persecution by the regime on their return.

The 11 pilgrims were kidnapped on May 22 in the northern province of Aleppo by armed gunmen while on their way home from Iran.

The armed opposition Free Syrian Army, whose leaders are based in Turkey, has denied any involvement.

The alleged kidnappers, who identify themselves as ''all of Syria's rebels,'' said in a statement that accompanied a video aired on al-Jazeera network in June they will free them when a ''civil state'' sees the day in Syria.

The same month, al-Jazeera quoted an armed group, the ''Syrian Revolutionaries -- Aleppo Province,” as saying they were holding the pilgrims.

In both videos aired by al-Jazeera the abductors have demanded an apology from Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.
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