News / Middle East

    Freed Lebanese, Turkish Hostages Home

    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, family members, officials welcome Murat Akpinar, Murat Agca, Istanbul, Oct. 19, 2013.
    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, family members, officials welcome Murat Akpinar, Murat Agca, Istanbul, Oct. 19, 2013.
    Reuters
    Two kidnapped Turkish pilots arrived in Istanbul after leaving Lebanon on Saturday and nine Lebanese hostages freed from Syria landed in Beirut, completing a hostage exchange after months of uncertainty.
     
    Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan greeted the Turkish Airlines pilots on the tarmac as they disembarked from a Qatar Airways jet and were met with cheers from family members.
     
    The Lebanese, seized by Syrian rebels in May 2012, were freed and left northern Syria for Turkey a day earlier as part of the deal negotiated by Qatari mediators.
     
    At Beirut International Airport, friends and relatives ululated and cheered as the men walked onto the tarmac.
    "The situation is worse than you can imagine, we paid a heavy price," said one of the hostages, who was walking with a cane, apparently from an injury sustained in captivity.
     
    The hostages' release may in fact be a three-way deal, Lebanese security sources said. They said the release of the Lebanese was originally contingent on the Syrian government's freeing of prisoners in state detention centers.
     
    An opposition monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the government had released dozens of prisoners over the past few days as part of that agreement.
     
    Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the release underscored Turkey's diplomatic clout.
     
    "The success of this process, which has been conducted under the instructions of our prime minister, proves once again the regional importance of Turkey," Davutoglu said in a Twitter post before the pilots landed in Istanbul.
     
    The kidnappings highlight how complex and regionalized Syria's 2-1/2-year conflict has become. The civil war has acquired sectarian dimensions that have pulled in its neighbors.
     
    Sunni Muslim countries such as Turkey largely back the Sunni-led uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's rule.
     
    Shi'ite Iran backs Assad, as does the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which is Shi'ite and supported by Tehran. Assad is from the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.
     
    'We didn't see daylight'
     
    Security sources said the agreement required that the Lebanese hostages not leave Turkey until the Turkish ambassador in Beirut had seen the Turkish pilots, who had been kidnapped in retaliation for the snatching of the Lebanese.
     
    One of the Turkish hostages said their captors treated them respectfully and did not use violence against them.
     
    "We weren't treated badly, but the first 25 days were difficult. We didn't see daylight," Murat Agca told reporters.
     
    The Lebanese hostages' families say they were religious pilgrims, but their kidnappers accused them of belonging to Hezbollah, which has been fighting alongside Assad's forces in Syria.
     
    The Turkish pilots were kidnapped by the family of one of the Lebanese hostages in order to press the Turkish government to help secure the group's release. Turkey has some influence with the Syrian opposition, having offered refuge and support to the rebels fighting Assad.
     
    Abbas al-Shuaab, one of the freed Lebanese hostages, wrapped a Hezbollah flag from the crowd around his shoulders.
     
    "They accused me of being in Hezbollah and I was not in Hezbollah," he said. "But from now on, I consider myself a soldier and fighter for [Hezbollah leader] Hassan Nasrallah."

    You May Like

    Syrian Rebel Realignment Likely as al-Qaida Leader Blesses Split

    Jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra splits from al-Qaida in what observers dub a ‘deception and denial’ exercise

    New India Child Labor Law Could Make Children More Vulnerable

    Concerns that allowing children to work in family enterprises will push more to work

    What Take-out Food Reveals About American History

    From fast-food restaurants to pizza delivery, the history of take-out food explains a lot about the changes taking place in society

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora