Gunmen Abduct Turkish Pilot and Copilot in Beirut


A Turkish pilot and copilot were kidnapped in Beirut early Friday by gunmen who intercepted their bus as they were heading to a hotel in the Lebanese capital. The kidnap is believed to be linked to the abduction of nine Lebanese pilgrims in Syria, whose families have urged Turkey to use its influence to secure their release. The Turkish Ambassador, Inan Ozyildiz, told LBCI TV that he is following up the case, hoping that Lebanese authorities would work for their release. Pilot Murat Akpinar and his co-pilot Murat Agca were on their way from Rafik Hariri International Airport to a hotel in Beirut’s Ain Mreisseh seafront when they were kidnapped at the Cocodi bridge around 3:00 am. The abductors were riding a four-wheeler and a Kia.
The bus, which had six people on board, belongs to Turkish Airlines and its driver is a man from Zoaiter family who was taken for questioning by police. Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel told Agence France Presse he had spoken with Turkey’s ambassador and that an investigation was under way. He also telephoned President Michel Suleiman to brief him about the probe. Sheikh Abbas Zgheib, who has been tasked by the Higher Islamic Shiite Council to follow up the case of the abducted pilgrims in Syria, was quick to deny any involvement by their relatives in the kidnapping of the Turks. But he said: “Had we known about it we would have encouraged it.” “More than a year have passed on the kidnapping of the Lebanese and [[[[the Turks are manipulating the feelings of the Lebanese,”]]] he added.
Spokeswoman for the families of the pilgrims Hayat Awali also stressed that they had no link to Friday’s incident. The families have in the past months held several protests near the Turkish Embassy and Turkish Airlines headquarters in Beirut. They accuse Ankara of procrastinating in the negotiation with the rebels, who have kidnapped the pilgrims, to secure their release. In May 2012, 11 pilgrims were kidnapped in Syria’s northern Aleppo province as they were making their way back to Lebanon by land from pilgrimage in Iran. Two of them have since been released, while the rest remain held in Aleppo’s town of Aazaz.
Sheikh Zougheib to NNA: Families of Azaz abductees not involved in kidnapping of Turkish pilot and copilot 
Sheikh Abbas Zougheib, commissioned by the Higher Shiite Council to follow up the case of Lebanese hostages in Syria, said Friday that there is no relationship between the kidnapping of Turkish pilots and case of Lebanese hostages in Syria. Armed men took hostage Friday morning two crew members of Turkish Airlines, Murat Akpinar pilot and Copilot Murat Agga, on Cocodille Highway in Beirut. “If this abduction is to settle the question of Lebanese abducted in Syria, we support it and we call on all parties to do so. However, if it is a ransom demand, we condemn it,” he said in an interview with the National News Agency. The spokesperson for the families of Lebanese hostages in Syria Daniel Choueib said he has no idea about the kidnapping. “If the kidnapping was personal, we do not support it. We will take the proper position when we are informed of the purpose of the kidnapping,” he concluded.
Choueib to NNA: We thank Zouar Imam Rida
Spokesperson of families of Azaz abductees told National News Agency Friday that he is grateful for the group that calls itself Zouar Imam Rida for supporting his cause and kidnapping two Turkish Airlines’ crew members. Although he hinted that he and the families were against kidnapping in general, he contended that the families of Lebanese who were abducted in Syria in May 2012 had no other choice. “May God grant them health,” he said in reference to Zouar Imam Rida, “we thank this group and wish upon them to treat the abductees well in accordance with religion and ethics.” Separately, Sheikh Aabass Zougheib, who is delegated by Higher Islamic Shiite Council to follow up on the Azaz case, said to NNA that he awaited to see the motives of the kidnapers. He also asserted that the name of this group has “come up before during military operations.”

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