Lebanon issues arrest warrants over abducted Turkish pilots

Lebanon issues arrest warrants over abducted Turkish pilots

BEIRUT - Agence France-Presse
Lebanon issues arrest warrants over abducted Turkish pilots

Lebanese policemen, patrol in front the Turkish airlines office, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Aug. 13. AP photo

A Lebanese court on Aug. 20 ordered the arrest of 10 people in connection with the kidnapping of two Turkish pilots this month, a court official told AFP.

The Turkish Airlines pilots were kidnapped on August 9 when gunmen ambushed a bus carrying the airliner's crew from Beirut airport to a hotel.

"The investigating judge for Mount Lebanon Ziad Makni issued arrest warrants in absentia for 10 people suspected of involvement in the kidnapping of Turkish pilot Murat Akpinar and his assistant Murat Ağca," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

None of the ten people whose arrests were ordered on Aug. 20 have been apprehended. But authorities have arrested three men in connection with the abduction, a judicial source told AFP on Aug. 17.

Questioning of the men already in detention has indicated links between the kidnapping of the pilots and the disappearance of nine Shiites missing in the northern Syrian town of Azaz since May 2012.

The kidnapping of the pilgrims was claimed by the Northern Storm brigade, a rebel group opposed to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.

The families of the nine missing Lebanese, who were on their way back to their country from a pilgrimage to Iran, say Turkey, a key backer of Syria's rebels, must ensure their relatives' release.

A family member of one of the men seized in Azaz meanwhile told Lebanese media that he has heard unofficial reports that among those wanted by Lebanese authorities are relatives of the missing pilgrims.

The court official meanwhile refused to name the people wanted by the authorities.

The pilots' kidnapping was claimed by a previously unknown group, the Zuwwar Imam Ali al-Rida, which demanded Ankara use its influence over the Syrian opposition to ensure the nine Lebanese Shiites are freed.

Turkey has warned Lebanon of "negative repercussions" on relations between the two countries.