BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanese forces foiled an attempted kidnapping of Syrian refugees in north Lebanon linked to the fighting in neighbouring Syria, the army said on Monday.
Abductions of Syrians and other foreigners are a growing concern in Lebanon, where a local clan kidnapped 20 Syrians and a Turkish businessman in retaliation for one of their relatives taken hostage by Syrian rebels in Damascus.
Lebanese forces were on high alert on Sunday that an abduction might take place near the port city of Tripoli and eventually stopped the perpetrators in the act, an army statement said. Twelve people were arrested.
The Lebanese army said the would-be kidnapping targeted Syrian refugees sympathetic to foes of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is fighting an almost 18-month-old uprising.
“After a heated pursuit we were able to get our hands on a gang of six, and from there the armed forces were able to arrest three more people in the Bahsas-Tripoli area, who were captured as they tried to arrest someone from the Syrian opposition,” the army statement said. Three more were detained after questioning.
Kidnappings in Lebanon have reinforced fears that the Syria conflict could reignite instability in a much smaller neighbour where Damascus has had a major influence for decades.
In Syria, hostage-taking is common between rebels fighting to topple Assad and militias loyal to the embattled leader. Rebels have taken several Lebanese and Iranian men hostage, accusing them of working for Assad’s forces.