Families of Abducted Pilgrims Warn Turks Could Become their ‘Guests’

Posted on: August 08, 2012 at 00:43
The families of 11 Lebanese pilgrims kidnapped in Syria threatened on Tuesday that Turkish citizens would become “guests” in Lebanon if Ankara does not make serious efforts to set the abductees free.

Sheikh Abbas Zgheib, who has been tasked by the Higher Islamic Shiite Council to follow up the case, told several TV stations that Lebanese authorities hadn’t done enough to guarantee the release of the kidnapped pilgrims.

“We hope that we reach the solution that everyone is after,” he said.

But he warned that “the families will do what is necessary” after saying that Turkey and Qatar should pressure the abductors to “end the tragedy.”

“If the issue isn’t resolved soon, the Turks will be our guests,” he said in a thinly veiled threat that Turkish nationals could be kidnapped.

The protestors were expected to head to the Qatari embassy in Beirut’s Ain el-Tineh district later in the day as anti-riot police deployed in the area. But they suspended that move.

Zgheib said however that they will hold talks with head of the General Security, Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim.

Both Qatar and Turkey have attempted to mediate the hostages’ release but haven’t succeeded so far in setting them free. They have aligned themselves with the Syrian opposition that is trying to topple the regime of President Bashar Assad.

LBC said a delegation that includes two family members and a news team is heading to Turkey to later cross to Syria and meet the pilgrims as promised by their kidnapper Abu Ibrahim.

The families reopened the airport road at dawn Tuesday, a day after they blocked it until the release of the men.

Traffic was back to normal on the road after the protest caused chaos in the ranks of travellers. Hundreds of them had to head to the airport or return on foot.

The protesters used their cars and motorcycles to block the highway in both directions on Monday night.

Zgheib said during the road closure that “this action is the first step and it might be escalated should the state fail to address this issue.”

“The sit-in will remain in place until we see the officials’ reaction,” he added.

The protest came after the abductees telephoned their families reassuring them that they are in good health and calling on Lebanese authorities to negotiate with their abductors.

For its part, LBC reported that the abductees said only former Premier Saad Hariri and MP Oqab Saqr are following up their case.

The 11 men were kidnapped in May by armed men in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo while on their way home from a pilgrimage to Iran.
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