Turkish spies in Lebanon for kidnapped pilots
BEIRUT - Anadolu Agency
Lebanese policemen gather in front the Turkish airlines office in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013. AP PhotoA delegation from Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MİT) has met Lebanon Interior Minister Marwan Sharbil to step up efforts to save two kidnapped Turkish pilots a day after Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu warned his Lebanese counterpart of “negative repercussions” should two pilots kidnapped last week not be freed.
The delegation, headed by a MİT deputy undersecretary, went to Beirut to emphasize the latest situation with Sharbil. No further details about the meeting have yet been revealed.
The move came a day after Davutoğlu warned his Lebanese opposite number, Adnan Mansour, of “negative repercussions” about a failure to secure the release of pilots Murat Akpınar and Murat Ağca.
Mansour talked to Davutoğlu about developments on the subject of the kidnapped pilots, the ministry said.
“Davutoğlu told ... Mansour he was deeply concerned about the kidnapping” and said it “might have negative repercussions on bilateral relations between the two countries,” the ministry said.
The Turkish pilots were kidnapped on Aug. 9 by a group demanding Turkey use its influence with Syria’s rebels, who it backs, to secure the release of nine Lebanese Shiites kidnapped in Syria in May 2012.
Meanwhile, Mansour said “Lebanon rejects any kidnapping that takes place on its territory,” according to Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry.
He also “emphasized the solid relations” between Turkey and Lebanon, and said the authorities “have been making every effort to ensure [the pilots] are set free.”
The statement comes a day after Ankara’s ambassador to Lebanon said Turkey had closed its cultural center and commercial office in Beirut.
He also said “Turkish Airlines’ offices have been operating from Beirut International Airport” instead of at their downtown Beirut facility.
A previously unknown group calling itself Zuwwar Imam al-Rida claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.
It said Turkey was “directly responsible” for the nine Lebanese who went missing in Syria.
The families of the Lebanese pilgrims, who were returning from a trip to Iran when they were kidnapped, have repeatedly called for the release of their relatives.
They accuse Turkey of not doing enough to that end.
The pilots were kidnapped in a majority Shiite area of Beirut, controlled mainly by the powerful Lebanese movement Hezbollah, a close ally of President Bashar al-Assad.
Since Aug. 9, Hezbollah’s Lebanese critics have repeatedly accused the Shiite group of covering up the abduction.