Lebanese militants take 40 hostage in a bid to regain one of their own
The crisis in Syria has spread into neighboring Lebanon. On Wednesday, Lebanese gunmen announced that they had kidnapped nearly 40 people.
The gunmen have promised to continue targeting nationals of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey until their demands have been met.
The men are angling for the release of one of their family members, who was kidnapped on Monday by Syrian rebels. The rebels accuse the man of being a Hezbollah sniper. Hezbollah is a Lebanese Shiite militant organization that is allied with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
According to the New York Times, one of the kidnappers said, “The next few hours and next few days will determine what will happen,” while another warned that if his brother was not released, “we will kill them all.”
Assad is part of the Alawite sect of Muslims, which is a branch of Shiite Islam. Lebanon has a significant Shiite population, most of whom support Assad. The Wall Street Journal reports that the kidnappings highlight a split between Sunnis and Shiites in the Middle East.
In the face of the increased threat, the Qatari, Saudi, and Turkish embassies in Beirut have all upped their security measures.