General Security Chief to Probe Alleged Link between Syrian Defector and Kidnapped Pilgrimsإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
President Michel Suleiman asked General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim on Friday to investigate a media report that a Syrian army deserter was involved in the kidnapping of Lebanese pilgrims by rebels last year.
A presidential statement said that during a meeting they held at Baabda palace, Suleiman tasked Ibrahim with investigating the report carried by al-Akhbar daily that Syrian army lieutenant Mohammed Tlas, who has fled his country to Lebanon, was aware of the full details linked to the abduction of the 11 men.
Al-Akhbar also said that Tlas has close ties with their kidnapper Amar al-Dadikhi of the rebel North Storm brigade, also known as Abu Ibrahim, and has called him several times as part of a mediation effort aimed at releasing the pilgrims in return for ransom.
But Abu Ibrahim has rejected the offer, it said.
The rebel told New York Times journalists in December that he will not release the men unless the Syrian government sets free two prominent opposition figures and Lebanon frees all alleged Syrian activists in government custody.
The 11 pilgrims were kidnapped in May last year as they crossed to Syria following their return from a pilgrimage in Iran. Two of them were released in August and September but nine still remain in custody in the Aleppo town of Aazaz.
Also Friday, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel told a delegation from the Editors Association that Turkish authorities have informed Lebanon that Abu Ibrahim was killed.
Turkey is a major supporter of the rebels fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad since March 2011. It has also engaged in the negotiations to set the pilgrims free.
The ministerial committee tasked with following up on the case of the pilgrims then held a meeting at Charbel's office to discuss the latest developments in the issue in light of the recent trips conducted by Prime Minister Najib Miqati and the interior minister to Turkey,
“Tangible steps have been taken by the interior minister in this file,” revealed Labor Minister Salim Jreissati after the meeting.
The ministerial committee meeting was attended by Charbel, Jreissati, Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi, and Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour.
The premier recently traveled to Turkey to discuss the pilgrims' abduction, with media reports saying that Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan had joined efforts to ensure their release.
The families of the pilgrims had frequently held Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar responsible for the ongoing kidnapping of the pilgrims.