Tue, May 30, 2023 8:11 AM
BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanese troops rescued a Saudi citizen kidnapped over the weekend in Beirut and reportedly held for ransom, the army said Tuesday.
Mushari al-Mutairi was released in a “special operation” along the Lebanon-Syria border, where the kidnappers held him hostage, a statement by the Lebanese military said. It gave no further details.
Lebanon's caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi said nine people were detained during the operation that ended with al-Mutairi's release.
Authorities have not identified any of the suspected kidnappers or said whether they are thought to belong to an organized group. The area where al-Mutairi was rescued is known to be a haven for criminals, smugglers and drug dealers. Kidnapping for ransom and car theft are common in northeast Lebanon.
Saudi ambassador to Lebanon Waleed Bukhari thanked the Lebanese authorities for al-Mutairi's release, adding that he was on his way to the embassy after undergoing medical tests that showed he is in good health.
Al-Mutairi was kidnapped after midnight Saturday in Beirut.
State-run Saudi TV station Al-Ekhbariya said that the kidnappers demanded a $400,000 ransom for al-Mutairi, who works for Saudi national airlines Saudia.
Later on Tuesday, an army statement said troops had carried out more raids in the eastern city of Baalbek, targeting the homes of other people wanted for questioning over their suspected roles in the kidnapping.
The army said that troops also raided an illegal drug factory in the city run by people suspected of involvement in the abduction. It said some of them escaped the factory and then opened fire on a nearby army post, which led to a shootout but there were no casualties.
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said in comments released by his office that the government is determined to guarantee the security of its citizens as well as foreigners.
Local Lebanese media reported that al-Mutairi was released during an operation by the army’s intelligence division in the northeastern district of Hermel.
Mikati congratulated the army on the operation's success and called on Arab tourists to visit the crisis-hit country adding that Lebanon will not be used for any attack against Arab countries.
Lebanon has been facing a crippling economic crisis since 2019. Three-quarters of its 6 million people have fallen into poverty.