Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Two kidnapped Turkish pilots have appeared in a video broadcast by Lebanon’s LBC TV on Tuesday, confirming they are alive and well. The video was recorded on October 14.
The two Turkish Airline pilots, Murat Akpinar and Murat Agca, said they were in good health but missing their families and country.
The self-proclaimed Zuwwar Imam Ali Al-Rida group claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of the pilots on the first day of Eid Al-Fitr, August 9 2013, as they were leaving Beirut’s Rafik Hariri airport. They were taken from a bus along with other crew members and passengers.
The group responsible for their abduction has called on Turkish authorities to push for the release of 9 Lebanese Shi’ite hostages behind held in Syria. The Lebanese Shi’ite hostages were abducted from Azaz in Aleppo in May 2012.
The release of the tape is viewed by some as a sign of progress in negotiations to secure the release of the Lebanese Shi’ite hostages—as well as two Syrian Christian Archbishops, Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi—who were abducted from Aleppo province earlier this year.
Negotiations are believed to be at an advanced stage, with some reports claiming that the Lebanese hostages could be released and returned to Beirut within the next few days. Director-General of Lebanese General Security Forces Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim has played a leading role in the negotiations, along with Turkey, Qatar, and even Germany, which has become involved during the latter stages of negotiations.
In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Lebanese Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said he hopes that the video of the Turkish hostages is a sign that this crisis is drawing to an end.
He said that security forces are currently unaware of the location of any of the hostages—the Turkish pilots, the Lebanese Shi’ites, and the two clerics—adding that they were most likely being moved around to avoid detection.
The 32-second recording of the two Turkish pilots was filmed against a plain wall, giving no indication as to where they are being held.
Both hostages appeared pale and nervous in the video.
“My name is Murat Akpinar, today is 14th October, 2013, there is only one day before Bayram (Eid). I would like to be at my home. I am fine,” said Akpinar in the recording.
Agca said: “My name is Murat Agca. Today is the 14th of October, which is the day before Bayram. I am safe and sound. I miss my family, my children and my country.”
Lebanese Interior Minister Marwan Charbel denied that there had been any negative developments in the protracted negotiations, saying that the atmosphere remains positive.
The families of the Lebanese kidnap victims had called on the Zuwwar Imam Ali Al-Rida group to allow the two Turkish pilots to contact their families as a gesture of goodwill on the occasion of Eid Al-Adha.