Syria releases abducted Lebanese farmers

Mohammed Yassin Merei, one of the two Lebanese men detained in the east of Lebanon on 30 May when they were crossing the boarder from Syria, celebrates on the Syrian-Lebanese crossing point of Aboudieh after being released on 3 June 2012. (Photo: AFP – STR)

Published Monday, June 4, 2012

Syrian authorities have released two Lebanese farmers kidnapped last Wednesday by unidentified gunmen in Lebanon's north and taken across the border into Syria, the Lebanese army said.

A statement from the army said Mohammed Yassin Merei and Mahdi Hamdan had been released on Sunday afternoon and handed to the Lebanese intelligence at the Masnaa border crossing.

It gave no details on who abducted the two men.

Last week, the farmers' relatives protested the kidnappings by blocking roads in the border town of Abboudiyyeh in Akkar province, where Merei and Hamdan had been seized by five armed Syrians while they were gathering crops.

Northern Lebanon has been used as a sanctuary for Syrian refugees fleeing a government crackdown on a popular revolt against President Bashar Assad that has left thousands dead over the past 15 months.

Syrian forces, who have strong links with the Lebanese army and border guards, have at times crossed into Lebanon, exchanging gunfire with rebels hiding in Lebanese territory, before retreating back across the poorly demarcated border, residents say.

The Syria crisis has the potential to destabilize Lebanon, where some political factions feel they have an interest in Assad staying in power while others support the revolt, which started with peaceful protests in March 2011 but has grown increasingly violent.

Clashes between supporters and opponents of Assad in the Lebanese city of Tripoli left 15 people killed at the weekend.

(Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

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