BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army said over the weekend it would continue the search for a number of individuals abducted by the Meqdad clan after the military raided the area where they had been held and made arrests.
“An Army force carried out a raid of the area of Rways and its surroundings in the southern suburb [of Beirut Friday] to apprehend those wanted by justice with arrest warrants out against them and we searched for kidnapped individuals after an earlier announcement by members of the Meqdad clan that they had carried out the kidnappings,” an Army statement said Saturday.
It also said it was working toward releasing the remaining hostages.
On Friday, the Army said it had arrested a number of wanted individuals, including Hasan al-Meqdad, but made no mention of the hostages.
During a speech in Amchit, President Michel Sleiman praised the Army for its work and said he had personally ordered the raid.
“I wish to praise the Lebanese Army on many of its missions and I praise it in particular for its work [Friday] in pursuing the kidnappers and I am the one who requested this openly during a meeting with the defense minister and the head of the Army,” he said, according to a statement from his office.
“I assure you that the army will continue to pursue them and I hope that the judiciary will match it in its work to punish the kidnappers and free the hostages,” he added.
In its statement Saturday, the Army said residents of Rways and members of the Meqdad in general showed “complete cooperation” during the operation and that it “arrested several wanted individuals in the raid and was pursuing further individuals in different parts of the country.”
The Meqdad clan, which in August kidnapped over two dozen Syrians and Turkish national in retaliation for the abduction of one of their own in Syria, said Friday that the five men it had in its custody – Turkish national Aydin Tekin and four Syrians – went missing after the Army raid.
Maher Meqdad, the clan’s spokesman and the brother of Hasan al-Meqdad, told The Daily Star Friday he knew nothing about the whereabouts of Tekin and the four Syrians.
He also said the army deployed in Rways after a personal feud broke out between a member of the Meqdads and another from the Srour family. Maher said his brother, Sheikh Hasan al-Meqdad, had been intervening to end the fight when he was arrested by Army soldiers.
Maher said the Meqdad clan did not want any trouble with the Army, adding that a “third party” was trying to trigger a clash between the clan and Army troops.
The Meqdads had earlier threatened to kill the Turkish hostage if Hassan al-Meqdad, who was kidnapped in Syria in early August, was killed by his captors.
The clan initiated a spate of abductions in the country last month in what they said was an attempt to pressure their relative’s captors to release him.
Eleven Lebanese Shiites were also kidnapped by rebels in northern Syria last May on their way back from a pilgrimage in Iran. Hussein Omar, one of the 11, was released late last month in what was described as a “goodwill gesture” from the captors following negotiations that included Lebanese and Turkish officials.
The Army said in its statement Saturday that during the raid it seized quantities of weapons, ammunition and military material.
“The Army’s leadership also informed relevant political authorities on all the details of steps taken and those to be taken in the case,” the statement added.