Lebanese clan abducts Syrians, Turkish national

Published Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Updated 8:54pm: A clan in Lebanon has abducted a Turkish businessman and several Syrians it says are rebel fighters in retaliation for the kidnapping of one of their relatives by the rebel Free Syrian Army in Damascus.

More than 20 Syrians have been kidnapped by the Mokdad clan, said Maher al-Mokdad, a relative of Hassan al-Mokdad, the man he said was captured in Damascus two days ago by the Free Syrian Army, which is fighting President Bashar al-Assad's rule.

In remarks to Lebanon's National News Agency (NNA), he said "the snowball would grow", warning "Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey and their citizens".

The apparent threat to kidnap nationals from countries backing the Syrian rebels quickly seems to have been realized. Among the hostages is a Turkish national, a diplomat in Lebanon said.

"He was here for business, arrived today, and was kidnapped near the airport," the diplomat said, adding that there has been little progress so far in negotiations to secure the man's release.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour contacted Hatem al-Mokdad, another brother of Hassan, requesting that the captors release Turkish national Toufan Teyken.

Mokdad refused the request, insisting that Teyken will remain a hostage until Hassan is freed by Syrian rebels across the border.

In a video broadcast by al-Mayadeen, a Lebanon-based TV station, two men identified as members of the FSA were shown in the custody of masked gunmen from the Mokdad clan in green fatigues and armed with automatic rifles.

One of the detainees identified himself as a captain by the name of Mohammed, who said his role was to help supply the FSA. The other said he was his assistant.

Maher al-Mokdad, speaking to Reuters, said the abductions were a response to the capture of Hassan al-Mokdad in Damascus two days ago by the FSA. The rebels had said Mokdad had been sent to Syria by Lebanon's Hezbollah, one of Assad's regional allies. Hezbollah denied Mokdad was a member of the party.

The detained Syrians included a lieutenant who deserted from the Syrian army to join the rebels, but those who were not FSA members had been freed, he said. He gave no details of how or where the men were abducted.

He said Mokdad went to neighboring Syria more than a year and a half ago - that is, before the outbreak of the 17-month-old uprising against Assad - and had no links to the fighting in Syria.

"We don't care what is happening in Syria. We respect the will for democracy. We just want our son to come back to Lebanon safely," Maher al-Mokdad said.

The clan threatened further kidnappings of Free Syrian Army rebels hiding out in Lebanon, stating they are capable of kidnapping rebels anywhere in the country.

"We have barely executed one percent of our goals until now. We know the names of those hosting members of the Syrian Free Army and we are capable of reaching them in Aley, Tripoli and Iqlim El-Kharoub in case of any act against us," a family member told NNA.

The family member blamed Lebanon’s ongoing political divisions for failing to act, forcing the clan to take matters into their own hands.

Saudi Arabia urges citizens to leave Lebanon

In the wake of the kidnapping, Saudi Arabia ordered its citizens to leave Lebanon “immediately,” fearing a reprisal against its citizens for Riyadh’s strong support for Syrian rebels, as well as hardline Islamists in Lebanon and Syria.

"The Saudi Arabian embassy in Lebanon calls all Saudi citizens to leave Lebanon immediately," the Saudi Press Agency reported in an SMS alert on Wednesday.

Saudi ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad al-Osseiri confirmed to NNA that his embassy called for Saudi nationals to promptly leave the country.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey are said to be leading efforts against the Assad regime, pouring money and arms into rogue Syrian militias waging an insurrection to topple the Syrian president.

(Reuters, NNA, Al-Akhbar)

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