A Lebanese Shiite Muslim clan said on Thursday it has “halted” its “military operations” after reportedly kidnapping a group of Syrian opposition members and a Turkish citizen.
The kidnappings sparked concern from Lebanon’s president, who held urgent talks with security chiefs and ministers on Thursday following the eruption of violence.
“At this moment, we halted all military operations on Lebanese territory. This announcement is because we have a sufficient number of Syrians linked to the Free Syrian Army,” said Maher al-Meqdad, spokesman for the clan which is demanded the release of a kinsman held in Syria.
On Wednesday, the clan had claimed it had kidnapped 33 Syrians and a Turkish man after a family member was kidnapped this week by a Syrian rebel group which accused him of being a Hezbollah sniper.
“I met with security leaders and the ministers concerned to discuss the issue of kidnappings and counter-kidnappings,” President Michel Sleiman said.
“We hope to resolve this diplomatically,” he said. “God willing, the Lebanese in Syria will be released and so will the kidnapped Syrians in Lebanon.”
The state-run Lebanese news agency also said that dozens more Syrians were kidnapped and their shops vandalized by rioters in Shiite areas of Beirut on Wednesday.
Several Gulf states ordered their nationals on Wednesday to leave Lebanon, with the United Arab Emirates warning that the situation was “very dangerous.”
Violence in Syria has spilled over into Lebanon, denting the country’s already fragile security situation, with cross-border shootings, shelling by the Syrian army, tit-for-tat kidnappings and sectarian clashes.
Lebanon has taken in around 38,000 refugees from the conflict across the border in Syria, which erupted in March last year.