Abductions in Lebanon as Syria war spills over
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DAMIEN CAVE & DALAL MAWAD
Spillover from the Syrian conflict hit Lebanon in a frightening new way on Wednesday with a mass abduction of more than 20 Syrians inside Lebanese territory, which their captors called revenge for the kidnapping of a Lebanese relative by rebels inside Syria.
The captors of the Syrians, who were displayed in a video shown on Lebanese television, threatened to cause havoc in the streets and go on an extended kidnapping spree inside Lebanon until their family member was set free. "The next few hours and days will determine what will happen," one masked captor said outside the family's compound in a Shia suburb of Beirut.
While the circumstances of the kidnappings were in dispute, the events nonetheless spread panic across Lebanon, which has been increasingly vulnerable to violence reverberating from Syria since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began nearly 18 months ago. Extended families with differing allegiances straddle both countries, and the use of hostages signaled the rise of abduction as a tactic by antagonists in the conflict.
Fears of further abductions, especially in Lebanon, increased as Lebanese television networks reported that shelling and airstrikes by the Syrian military in Azaz, a suburb of Aleppo, Syria's largest city, killed some or all of the 11 Lebanese pilgrims who had been kidnapped by rebels in May. Activists said many more people may have been killed by Syrian artillery and airstrikes in Azaz as well.
By Wednesday afternoon, according to Lebanese officials, additional guards had been assigned to the embassies of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, the main allies of the Syrian insurgency. Saudi Arabia advised its citizens to leave Lebanon.
Blast in Damascus near UN hotel
ALEPPO: A bomb exploded in central Damascus on Wednesday near several military buildings and a hotel housing UN observers, wounding three people. No UN staff were hurt in the blast. Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said that the bombing proved the criminal and barbaric nature of those who carry out these attacks — and their backers in Syria and abroad. Reuters
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