BEIRUT, (Reuters) – Lebanon’s army said on Saturday its forces raided a southern district of Beirut and arrested a member of a powerful Shi’ite Muslim clan which claims responsibility for the kidnapping of 20 Syrians and a Turkish businessman.
“Army forces carried out a raid to execute arrest warrants against individuals that were linked to kidnappings … The army arrested a number of wanted, including Hassan Meqdad,” an army statement said, without mentioning the kidnapped.
The Meqdad clan abducted the men on Aug. 15 in what they said was a response to the capture of one of their kinsmen in Damascus by the Free Syrian Army, the armed wing of a revolt which aims to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The kidnappings have reinforced fears that the Syria conflict could trigger more instability in a much smaller neighbour where Damascus has had a major influence for decades.
The Meqdads are one of many armed groups in Lebanon which continue to exert power. The northern port city of Tripoli has seen sporadic clashes between Assad’s supporters and his foes.
“The (army) continues its search for a number of culprits who fled to various Lebanese regions and plans to maintain its work for the release of all hostages,” the statement said, adding large quantities of weapons and ammunition were seized during the raid on the Rweiss district of Beirut.