Skip to main content

Syria violence fuels kidnapping threats in Lebanon

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 10:31 PM EDT, Wed August 15, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE and Kuwait urge their citizens to leave Lebanon
  • Family of a man held by Syrian rebels claims retaliatory abductions
  • Lebanon's president says "spreading chaos" won't help

Beirut, Lebanon (CNN) -- Several Persian Gulf states called on their citizens to leave Lebanon on Wednesday after the civil war in neighboring Syria fueled protests and kidnapping threats there.

Groups of youths protesting the abduction of a Lebanese citizen by Syrian rebel forces burned tires and blocked the road to Beirut's international airport late Wednesday as soldiers in riot gear and armed with tear gas stood by. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates urged their nationals to get out of Lebanon immediately, with Kuwait warning of a "deteriorating security situation" in the country.

The UAE said its embassy in Beirut had been warned that Emirati citizens were targets of possible kidnappers "because of the difficult and sensitive circumstances in Lebanon," Undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry Juma Mubarak Al Jenaibi told the state news agency WAM. And Saudi Arabia noted "threats by unknown sources to abduct Saudi nationals and others" in urging its people to get out.

Lebanon is now hosting 36,000 Syrian refugees, and the conflict next door threatens to upset the careful sectarian political balance that has managed to prevail since the end of a 15-year civil war in 1990. President Michel Sleiman called on all parties to keep the peace and to stop threatening to kidnap anyone.

Syrian regime attacks hospital
Tanker explodes near Damascus hotel
CNN crew sneaks in and out of Aleppo
Sexual violence as weapon of war

"Spreading chaos does not bring back any kidnapped nor restores any right," Sleiman said in a statement quoted by the official news agency NNA. "Instead, it shatters all rights and endangers the lives of citizens, and threatens the state's entity which guarantees people's lives and rights."

Lebanon was long dominated by Syria, which kept troops there until 2005. It supports the anti-Israel militia Hezbollah, the Shiite Muslim movement that has become a powerful force in Lebanese politics. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE, along with Turkey and some Western powers, have been supporting the Syrian opposition, while the Lebanese are split between supporting the opposition or the embattled government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The latest unrest in Lebanon was triggered by the kidnapping in Damascus of a Lebanese man, Hassan Salim Meqdad, by Syrian rebels who accused him of being a Hezbollah member. The rebel Free Syrian Army distributed a "confession" by Meqdad in which he said he was one of 1,500 Hezbollah fighters operating in Syria.

In response, Meqdad's brother Hatem Meqdad told Lebanon's state news agency that his family had kidnapped 26 Syrians living in Lebanon and warned that citizens of the Persian Gulf monarchies and Turkey would be next. Two of the captives were displayed for cameras, appearing beneath a black tribal banner.

The violence in Syria has been spilling over into Lebanon since May, when a group of Shiite pilgrims were kidnapped in Syria. That has raised fears that factional rivalries could erupt into outright warfare in a country where power is constitutionally balanced among Shiites, Sunni Muslims and Christians. A series of gun battles, riots and angry protests that month left at least 11 people dead that month.

CNN Correspondent Arwa Damon contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Syrian crisis
updated 8:43 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Jihadists have kidnapped over 140 Kurdish boys to "brainwash" them. But a few boys made a daring escape.
updated 8:48 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Reports that Syrian warplanes carried out a cross-border attack on Iraqi towns is further evidence of the blurring of the two countries' borders.
updated 5:33 PM EDT, Tue June 24, 2014
CNN's Atika Shubert speaks to a father whose teenage son joined the Jihad movement in Syria.
updated 7:41 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
At the start of Syria's civil unrest, Omar would rally against the government alongside his schoolmates, later taking to the streets in his hometown of Salqin.
updated 5:17 PM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
Atika Shubert looks at the rise of European jihadists traveling to Syria and whether they soon could join ISIS in Iraq.
updated 10:53 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
The final stockpile of Syria's chemical weapons has been shipped out of the country, according to the OPCW, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
updated 4:25 PM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
The US isn't doing airstrikes in Iraq. Is there a vacuum for Syria and Iran to step in? CNN's Fareed Zakaria weighs in.
updated 4:04 AM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports on Syrian rebels using underground explosions against the better-equipped regime.
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Mon June 9, 2014
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh returns to the besieged rebel areas of Aleppo, a pale skeleton of a city that has had the life bombed out of it.
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Mon June 2, 2014
Syria may be embroiled in a brutal three-year civil war, but that's not stopping the government from holding presidential elections.
updated 7:23 AM EDT, Tue June 3, 2014
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh meets an ISIS defector in hiding and gets a rare look into the group's recruitment process.
updated 12:10 PM EDT, Thu June 5, 2014
Over a thousand Syrian refugees have turned an abandoned shopping mall in Lebanon into makeshift living quarters.
updated 5:19 PM EDT, Wed May 28, 2014
What caught our experts' ears was as much about what he didn't address as much as what he did.
updated 6:19 AM EDT, Tue May 20, 2014
The three-year war in Syria has claimed 162,402 lives, an opposition group said Monday, as the raging conflict shows no signs of abating.
updated 9:41 PM EDT, Fri May 30, 2014
Official: The U.S. believes a jihadi featured in a suicide bombing video in Syria is Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha who grew up in Florida.
updated 10:37 AM EDT, Tue May 20, 2014
For the first time, Britain has convicted someone of a terrorism offense related to the Syrian civil war.
ADVERTISEMENT