(Al-Akhbar): Gunman kidnapped two Turkish pilots early Friday as they traveled in a shuttle with fellow crew members from Beirut’s international airport to their hotel, state news reported.
The National News Agency said eight gunmen cut off Beirut’s airport road in the southern suburbs of the capital to intercept a minibus carrying a Turkish flight crew
The gunmen kidnapped captain Murat Aktumer and his co-pilot Murat Agca, but left four other crew members in the shuttle, the NNA said.
It is unclear if the incident is linked to the abduction of 11 Lebanese pilgrims in Syria, whose families have urged Turkey to use its influence to secure their release.
Speaking to Turkish television, Ankara’s ambassador to Beirut Inan Ozyildiz said “the case is being followed closely” and that he was working with “Lebanese forces to free the two pilots.”
Eleven Lebanese Shia pilgrims were abducted by a rebel group in Syria in May 2012. Two men have since been released, but nine others are still missing.
The families of those kidnapped have staged protests outside Turkish Airlines offices in Beirut, arguing that Ankara – a strong backer of the Syria rebels – should use its influence to secure the release of their relatives.
There have been several failed rounds of negotiations to free the pilgrims.
A representative for the families of the kidnapped Lebanese in a statement denied any involvement in Friday’s abduction of the Turkish pilots.