Syrian Rebels Free One of 11 Kidnapped Lebanese, Remaining to be Released Soonإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Hussein Ali Omar, one of the 11 kidnapped Lebanese pilgrims in Syria by armed rebels, arrived in Beirut on Saturday.
Family members and several officials including Interior Minister Marwan Charbel gathered at Rafik Hariri International Airport to welcome Omar.
TV footage showed Omar in a good health and wearing a red tie printed on it the Turkish flag.
Omar told reporters that the other 10 men are in a good health, thanking the media for their efforts.
“I call on the Turkish authorities to exert efforts to free the remaining Lebanese in Syria,” Omar said.
“We were treated well and the remaining 10 Lebanese are in good health.”
The 11 men were kidnapped on May 22 in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo upon their return from a pilgrimage to Iran.
Fireworks were launched in Beirut’s southern suburbs upon the arrival of Omar.
Family members and the families of the 10 remaining men gathered to welcome him home.
“We were promised that my mates will be freed as soon as possible… Probably in the upcoming five days” Omar said.
He pointed out that he left the other 10 men on Friday night not knowing that he will be released.
Conflicting reports in the past weeks raised question marks on their fate after Syrian forces shelled the area where they were being held in the town of Aazaz near the Turkish border.
Charbel told reporters at the airport that the “Turkish authorities are smoothly exerting efforts to free the remaining kidnapped Lebanese.”
Omar received telephone calls from several officials including former President Michel Suleiman, Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Najib Miqati, ex-PM Saad Hariri, Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour and others.
Earlier, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu telephoned Speaker Nabih Berri and Premier Miqati to inform them that Omar will arrive in Beirut aboard a Turkish plane on Saturday night.
The PM’s press office said Miqati hoped that Turkish authorities would exert further efforts to guarantee the safe return of the remaining Lebanese home.
Omar appeared in a video crossing the border into Turkey, and then speaking to the Doha-based al-Jazeera channel praising his captors, insisting he and the others were "guests, not captives."
"We thank the brothers, rebels of Syria, for their treatment... We have been guests, not captives," he said in the footage.
"We call on the Lebanese people and the dormant Arab peoples, to stand up and support this oppressed people of Syria," he said.
The spokesman of the rebels of Aazaz, Mohammed Nour, announced in a video that the kidnappers released 60-year-old Omar, who hails from the town of Ain al-Sawda in Baalbek, after the mediation of Ulemas and as a goodwill gesture.
He said the fate of the other abductees will be decided after messages are sent to the counties neighboring Syria and other Arab states on setting their stance from the revolution against President Bashar Assad.
We ask Hizbullah to recognize the revolution, Nour said.
A member of the Association of Muslim Scholars, Sheikh Nabil Rahim, told LBCI that he expected the other 10 to be released soon.