Two pilots for Star Alliance Carrier Turkish Airlines were kidnapped close to Beirut, Lebanon Airport. This was confirmed by the Lebanese Interior Ministry. Strangely seven passengers that were on the same bus were not harmed.
Turkish Airline Pilot Murat Aktumer and his co-pilot Murat Agca were on their way from Rafik Hariri International Airport to a hotel in Beirut’s Ain Mreisseh seafront when they were kidnapped at the Cocodi bridge around 3:00 am by abductors that were riding a four-wheeler and a Kia.
The Turkish Ambassador, Inan Ozyildiz, told LBCI TV that he is following up the case, hoping that Lebanese authorities would work for their release.
The bus, which had six people on board, belongs to Turkish Airlines and its driver is a man from Zoaiter family who was taken for questioning by police.
Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel told Agence France Presse he had spoken with Turkey’s ambassador and that an investigation was under way.
He also telephoned President Michel Suleiman to brief him about the probe.
Sheikh Abbas Zgheib, who has been tasked by the Higher Islamic Shiite Council to follow up the case of the abducted pilgrims in Syria, was quick to deny any involvement by their relatives in the kidnapping of the Turks.
But he said: “Had we known about it we would have encouraged it.”
The abduction is believed to be related to the case of nine Lebanese Shias who were kidnapped in Syria by opposition rebels in May 2012.
They were part of a group of Shia pilgrims who went missing in northern Syria’s Aleppo province as they returned from a pilgrimage in Iran.
The women in the group and two men were released.
However, a representative for the families of the kidnapped Lebanese denied in a statement any involvement in the abduction of the Turkish pilots.
The kidnapping of the Shia pilgrims was claimed by a man who identified himself as Abu Ibrahim and said he is a member of the Northern Storm Brigade, a battalion affiliated with the opposition Free Syrian Army(FSA).
The FSA denies any involvement, however.
The families of those kidnapped have staged a protests outside the Turkish Airlines offices in Beirut, arguing that Turkey, a strong backer of the Syrian rebels, should use its influence to secure the release of their relatives.
There have been several failed rounds of negotiations to free the pilgrims.
The kidnappers have not spelled out any demands, although they have claimed that the hostages were members of Hezbollah, the powerful Lebanese Shia group that is fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.