MIDEAST > Two Turkish pilots abducted in Lebanese capital


Print Page Send to friend »
AFP photo

AFP photo

Gunmen ambushed a van carrying a Turkish Airlines crew in the Lebanese capital and kidnapped two of its members, a pilot and a co-pilot, as Ankara issued a travel advisory to Syria’s restive neighbor.

Four gunmen ambushed the van on an old airport road in Beirut, snatching the two men, both Turkish nationals, and allowing the rest to continue, according to officials.

The kidnapped men were named as pilot Murat Akpınar and co-pilot Murat Ağca. The van was traveling from the Rafik Hariri International Airport to a hotel in Beirut when the ambush took place early Aug. 9. In the wake of the incident, Lebanese soldiers were deployed to the area, with two armored personnel carriers stationed by the roadside where the kidnapping took place.

A group calling itself Zuwar al-Imam Rida (Pilgrims of Imam Riza) claimed responsibility for the kidnappings, according to Lebanese al-Jadeed TV, demanding the release of nine Lebanese hostage pilgrims being held in northern Syria in exchange.

“We announce that the Turkish captain ... and his assistant are our guests until our brothers ... who were abducted in Azaz are released,” the statement said, according to the Lebanese television station and the country’s national news agency.

It said it held Turkey responsible for the fate of the Lebanese Shiites, who were among a group of 11 men abducted in May last year by rebels in the northern town of Azaz, close to Turkey. They were seized on their return from a pilgrimage to Shiite religious sites in Iran, their families said. Two were later released.

HDNTheir kidnapping was claimed by a man who identified himself as Abu Ibrahim and said he was a member of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), but the FSA denies any involvement. Turkey is known as a staunch supporter of rebels battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said Lebanese authorities were investigating the claim by the newest group. “We haven’t heard of the so-called Zuwar al-Imam Rida,” Charbel said. The investigation will reveal whether such a group truly exists or it is “fictional,” he added.

Families of the kidnapped pilgrims have repeatedly urged Turkey to use its influence to secure their release and staged protests outside Turkish Airlines offices in Beirut.

Lebanese media quoted a spokesman for the families as saying they had no link to the Beirut abductions. But shortly after the claim of responsibility was issued, celebratory fireworks were set off in the Bir al-Abed district of southern Beirut where some of the relatives live. Two Turkish nationals were briefly abducted in Lebanon in August and September last year, following the capture of the pilgrims.

The latest incident came days after a senior Lebanese political source said authorities had information suggesting that families of the Lebanese detainees, or their supporters, were planning to take Turkish hostages.

President Abdullah Gül said discussions were made immediately after the incident. “I will also talk to the Lebanese president. I hope the pilots will soon arrive home safe and sound,” the president said.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu called Lebanese Prime Minister Najip Mikati and Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri. Mikati and Berri expressed their sadness and vowed to make the necessary efforts to free the pilots. “We expressed our condemnation of the kidnapping, we are in the process of making every effort to determine the identities of the kidnappers,” Mikati said. “We are doing everything possible to secure the release” of the pilots, he added.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Levent Gümrükçü said the Lebanese authorities were alarmed over the incident and that an investigation was being conducted. Ankara’s ambassador to Beirut, İnan Özyıldız, said “the case is being followed closely” and that he was working with “Lebanese forces to free the two pilots.”

The Foreign Ministry also issued a travel advisory to Lebanon, urging citizens not to travel to the country except in case of emergency. The statement also called on Turkish citizens in Lebanon to return to Turkey, adding that those who must remain should take the necessary measures to guarantee their own safety.


PRINTER FRIENDLY Send to friend »


Notice on comments

Mohammed Herki

8/11/2013 12:39:01 AM

support alnusra and this is what you will get in Your hands. Alnusra has killed many Kurdish children and women with full backup of turkey. But this time turkey has stepped on Hizbollahs feet. And that is not a very Nice thing to do. I hope the pilots will get home and I hop those shia pilgrims kidnapped in Syria by alnusra will also get home and I hope People in Turkey ask theire goverment why they are supporting a killer gang in Syria.

dennis kavaz

8/10/2013 7:16:06 AM

The Lebanese abduction; just as we thought in the 21st Century that, humans has learned (from past experiences) to live peacefully and respect other peoples rights; along comes us and the only trades that we been thought is commit suicides, vendettas, stay for ever in power, uprisings, seek asylum, sea pirate’s, and abductions.

Arnold Yesovitch

8/9/2013 9:00:42 PM

This should be interesting reading to find out how Turkey handles this situation.


8/9/2013 7:35:46 PM

Fictional? Dude, they kidnapped your pilots.

tsava hagana

8/9/2013 6:27:02 PM

Erdogan: Hezboolla was that did it. Because you do not require excuses from Lebanon, as demanded of Israel. Why are not Jewish? Will withdraw ambassadors from Lebanon? His hatred is only with Jews and Israel?

ebby m

8/9/2013 4:26:54 PM

Davutoğlu should give Nasrallah a 24 hour ultimatum. Nothing happen in Lebanon without Hezbollah's knowledge.

Jim Phipps

8/9/2013 3:57:30 PM

With an indifferent diplomatic effort and no real capability to get the pilots back, this could end very very bad. The kidnappers know that Turkey is not Israel and as a result can be terrorists anywhere anytime against Turkish citizens, There is a lesson here, actually several, that will be missed by the current Turkish Government,

Turk Uzan

8/9/2013 2:50:34 PM

Are you kidding me? The Lebanese government is nothing but a sham government. The terrorists that have abducted our pilots and the pilgrims, "Hezbollah" aka Iran's wild dogs are the ones who actually control and rule Lebanon with their gigantic private army of fundamentalist nut jobs. It's not Lebanon that you need to negotiate with, It's Iran. But Lebanon and we have ZERO influence over Hezbollah ... Iran is fighting a proxy war against us and we sit and watch silently


8/9/2013 12:32:25 PM

"families of Lebanese Shiite pilgrims..have demanded Ankara take greater steps to win their release and staged protests outside Turkish Airlines offices in Beirut". "Two Turkish nationals were also briefly abducted in Lebanon last year". "A senior Lebanese political source told Reuters earlier this week that authorities had information that relatives of the Lebanese detainees were planning to take Turkish hostages". If only there'd been some clues that this might happen!

Recep Ozel

8/9/2013 11:23:09 AM

Many middle east counties are now unsafe for Turks due to the AKP policies of 'making enemies of your neighbors'. I'm planning not to go anywhere!!
< >


AcerPro S.I.P.A HTML & CSS Agency