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Two Turkish pilots kidnapped in Lebanon

Xinhua | Updated: 2013-08-09 19:28

BEIRUT -- Two Turkish pilots were kidnapped on a bus in Lebanon's capital of Beirut early Friday, a security source told Xinhua.

The bus was carrying Turkish Pilot Murat Akpinar and his co- pilot Murat Agca from Rafik Hariri International Airport to a hotel in Beirut's Ain Mreisseh seafront, but was intercepted by gunmen at around 3:00 a.m., the source said on condition of anonymity.

A group named "Zuwar Al Rida," which was previously unheard of, has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, the source said.

Initial investigation revealed that the abductors were riding a four-wheeler and a touring car. The police has taken the driver of the bus, which belongs to Turkish Airlines, for inquiry.

The incident 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.

Turkish Ambassador Inan Ozyildiz told LBCI TV that he was following up the case, hoping that Lebanese authorities would work for their release.

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 the pilgrims' relatives in the kidnapping of the Turks.

Hayat Awali, spokeswoman for the families of the pilgrims, also stressed that they had no link to Friday's incident.

In the past months, the families have held several protests near the Turkish Embassy and Turkish Airlines' headquarters in Beirut. They accuse Ankara of procrastinating in the negotiation with the Syrian rebels who have kidnapped the Lebanese pilgrims.

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.

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