Lebanese Pilgrims Appear in New Video, Abductors Say Will Free Two Captivesإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Al-Jazeera television aired Tuesday a video it received from the abductors of 11 Lebanese Shiite pilgrims who were kidnapped in Syria in May, in which the kidnappers announced they will release two of the captives.
“In response to the appeal of the Muslim Scholars Committee in Lebanon, we will hand over two of the guests in our custody to their families under the supervision of the Muslim Scholars Committee in Lebanon and the state of Qatar,” the abductors said in what they dubbed “Statement Number 3.”
“We have informed the Turkish government in order to confirm our good intentions,” the statement added.
But the abductors rejected to “forget what was voiced in the first statement: the demand of an apology from (Hizbullah Secretary-General Sayyed) Hassan Nasrallah who was justifying for (Syrian President Bashar) Assad his deeds while the honor of our women was being violated in Homs and who claimed that what’s happening in Syria is nothing but media fabrications.”
“We do not have a problem with any sect and we are rather struggling for the freedom and dignity of our people,” the kidnappers added in their statement.
The statement did not mention the identity of the two captives the abductors intend to release.
The Lebanese men were on their way back from a pilgrimage in Iran when gunmen intercepted their buses in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo.
The rebel Free Syrian Army has denied any involvement in the operation.
Meanwhile, Sheikh Salem al-Rafehi, member of Lebanon’s Muslim Scholars Committee, told LBCI television that through its efforts the committee “wanted to underline that sectarian tensions will not prevent it from supporting the aggrieved.”
And as he denied his knowledge of the names of those who will be freed, Rafehi clarified that the committee does not have direct contact with the abductors, “but rather with the Muslim scholars who met in Istanbul.”
“We urged them to release Hussein Ali Omar because his health situation is unstable and we have communicated with his family,” Rafehi added.
On the other hand, Rafehi called on President Michel Suleiman to seek “the release of the Islamist detainees from prison, who have been suffering great injustice.”
In a previous video, the abducted pilgrims said they were “the guests of the Syrian revolutionaries,” expressing support for “their revolution against oppressors.”
Earlier on Tuesday, President Suleiman held talks with Turkish leaders about the fate of the 11 pilgrims.
"We told the Lebanese side that we will do our best to find the kidnapped pilgrims but our opportunities are also restricted," a diplomatic source told Agence France Presse after Suleiman's meeting with Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Ahead of his trip to Turkey, Suleiman told reporters earlier in the day that “there are some good signs” about the case of the 11 pilgrims.
“I am exerting all efforts and holding contacts and routine meetings to secure their release,” he added.
Their abduction is not a democratic act and does not serve any cause, the president said.