Mokdad Clan: The Syrian Vendetta
By: Radwan Mortada
Published Friday, August 17, 2012
In response to a family member being kidnapped in Damascus, the powerful al-Mokdad clan took revenge by kidnapping dozens of Syrian nationals in Lebanon.
As soon as some masked gunmen began circulating a video showing young Hassan al-Mokdad bearing bruises and making elaborate confessions, his clan began rallying in solidarity with their persecuted son, particularly in the complete absence of the state.
From the beginning, the Mokdad family league denied any connection between Hassan and Hezbollah, saying he had moved to Syria “due to financial difficulties a year and a half ago.” The family league indicated that the problem had been solved and he was due to return in the next couple of days.
After these clarifications of his situation and reason for being in Syria, his brother began threatening that action would be taken if Hassan was not returned within 24 hours.
He was true to his word. Syrian men, allegedly members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), were abducted at random by what the family call “the military wing of the Mokdad clan.”
The arbitrary nature of the kidnappings spread utter chaos across Lebanon. The victims were innocent Syrian workers, they just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The most alarming aspect of the Mokdad response was the effect it had on other sections of Lebanese society. Many groups were encouraged to kidnap and severely beat Syrian nationals.
Military wings of different Bekaa clans suddenly appeared. They struck in several locations, especially in Beirut.
The first wave led to dozens of kidnappings. Some rational clan leaders managed to ensure that most of the kidnapped men were freed after they were convinced of their innocence.
In Hay al-Sellom, a suburb south of Beirut, masked gunmen attacked shops run by Syrians. They brutally dragged them into the streets and covered their heads with black sacks. Then they threw them into car trunks and detained them.
Eyewitnesses maintain that they saw around 40 people being taken away, although this was not mentioned by much of the media.
This group of people were later released following intense interrogations. Some had clearly been beaten while others complained of being repeatedly insulted and threatened.
The first night’s toll was 33 kidnapped persons (32 Syrians and a Turkish national). It was rumored that one of them was Saudi, but this was denied by the kidnappers.
News from the Saudi Embassy had indicated that they had lost contact with one of their citizens and therefore had considered him missing.
Speaking to Al-Akhbar, Saudi sources revealed that the embassy had not issued an official statement announcing the kidnapping of one of its citizens. They indicated that the news was based on leaks from within the embassy.
The kidnappings calmed down the following day, despite a “promise” by the clan’s military wing that they would unveil a “big catch” very soon.
By the end of the day, the Mokdad family announced “the cessation of military operations on Lebanese territories” and released 18 captives.
Meanwhile, the secretary of the Mokdad family league, Maher al-Mokdad, threatened that “the kidnapped Turkish citizen will be the first victim if Hassan Mokdad does not return.”
“Let them return our son and we will release the Turkish citizen,” he warned.
He denounced Lebanese foreign minister Adnan Mansour who had met with the family. “He did not ask about Hassan. He just wanted to know about the kidnapped Turk,” Mokdad complained.
Al-Akhbar has learned that the kidnappers picked their victims and planned their operations based on information provided by informants loyal to the Syrian regime, who told them the targets were members of the Syrian opposition.
It became clear later that most of those kidnapped were regime opponents. But, except for a very few, they were not FSA members as rumored earlier.
Sources in the FSA confirmed that two of the victims had worked with them, but they were not actual members.
The same sources said that “one of the kidnapped men had visited a weapons merchant from the [Mokdad] family to assist him in providing logistical supplies to the FSA, but the latter snitched on him [after the kidnapping of Hassan].”
As for Hassan’s fate in Syria, opposition sources there told Al-Akhbar that the “kidnappers are an armed gang acting on its own and it is not affiliated with us.” They indicated that “none of the FSA battalions claimed the Hassan Mokdad kidnapping.”
The same sources said that three FSA groups were deployed to look for the gunmen involved in kidnapping Mokdad.
In related developments, several gunmen attacked the offices of al-Yasariya news channel in Galerie Semaan on the outskirts of Dahiyeh and kidnapped four of its workers on Tuesday.
The channel’s general director Mikhail Awad said that more than 40 masked gunmen raided the offices. They ransacked and looted the channel’s studios and equipment.
Following talks with state and party officials, the kidnapped workers were released.
A photographer from the Elnashra news site, Zaynoun al-Naboulsi, was assaulted by relatives of the 11 Lebanese Shia pilgrims kidnapped in Syria last May, who were blocking the Airport Road on Tuesday night. They left him with a broken nose and smashed camera.
News teams from OTV and LBCI were also attacked.
On Thursday, Maher Mokdad announced that the family had abducted the “FSA’s media spokesperson,” Mohamed Adel Suleiman Mohamed.
He revealed that negotiations are underway between Mohamed’s family and the kidnappers through the International Committee of the Red Cross.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.