Ankara issues travel warning to Lebanon after abductions

Ankara issues travel warning to Lebanon after abductions

Ankara issues travel warning to Lebanon after abductions

Shiite masked gunmen from the Meqdad clan, gather at the Meqdad family’s association headquarters in the southern suburbs in Beirut. The clan has abducted one Turk. REUTERS photo

Turkey issued a warning for its citizens against travel to Lebanon Aug. 17 after two of its citizens were kidnapped by armed groups in retaliation for the abduction in Syria of a Lebanese citizen who belongs to a powerful clan.

“In light of these developments, our citizens should refrain traveling to Lebanon unless it’s mandatory. It’s highly important for our citizens who are currently in Lebanon to take every necessary measure for their security and to be vigilant,” the Foreign Ministry said in a written statement late Aug. 17.

A Turkish businessman, Aydın Tufan Tekin, and a Turkish truck driver whose name has not yet been made public were kidnapped in the last two days. The powerful Meqdad clan that abducted the businessman along with other foreigners said it was not involved in the kidnapping of the truck driver, according to reports.

The ministry said the course of developments in Lebanon is signaling poor conditions for the security of Turkish citizens, adding that multifaceted efforts and initiatives were being launched for the immediate release of the captive citizens.

Message from Gül and Sleiman

Speaking to Anatolia news agency, Tekin said he is in good health and called on the Turkish authorities to secure his release soon. Tekin said the Lebanese Meqdad clan was taking good care of him. He was abducted by clan members as soon as he exited Beirut International Airport on Aug. 15, Tekin said, adding that he had been kidnapped in retaliation for Hassan Meqdad’s abduction by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in Syria. Tekin called on the Turkish authorities to contact the FSA concerning the release of Hassan Meqdad.

“The best way to solve the problem is good contact with the authorities in a diplomatic way. I have been seeking assistance from the Turkish government,” said Tekin. Commenting on Tekin’s abduction, President Abdullah Gül said Aug. 17 that they were saddened by the Turkish citizen’s abduction in Lebanon.

Speaking to reporters in Istanbul, Gül said Tekin was a representative of a Turkish company contributing immensely to the wealth and economic development of Lebanon. “Lebanese officials are doing all they can so that our abducted citizen in Lebanon gets released,” Gül said. In Beirut, Lebanese President Michel Sleiman asked France to work with Turkey in resolving the case of the 11 Lebanese pilgrims kidnapped in Syria in May.

According to Sleiman’s press office, the president asked visiting French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius during their meeting Aug. 17 to work with the Turkish authorities to secure the release of the Lebanese people abducted in Syria, Lebanese newspaper Daily Star reported.

The kidnapping of the 11 Shiite pilgrims, who were captured after crossing into Syria from Turkey on May 22, has raised tensions in Lebanon. The families of the hostages have staged several protests, blocking roads and threatening escalation.