Turkish pilots freed after release of Lebanese hostages

Oct. 19, 2013 at 5:54 PM

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Nine Lebanese nationals held hostage in Syria for nearly 17 months were freed in exchange for the release of two Turkish Airlines pilots, officials said.

They arrived home Saturday as part of swap that also included the release of dozens of Syrian women being held by the Syrian government, The Lebanon Daily Star reported.

Eleven Shiite Lebanese were abducted by Syrian rebels in May 2012 on their way home from a pilgrimage in Iran. Two of the hostages were released in the months following their abduction.

Turkish Airlines pilot Murat Akpinar and his co-pilot, Murat Agca, were kidnapped Aug. 9 in Beirut in retaliation for the abductions of the Lebanese hostages. Their kidnappers tied their release to the return of the Lebanese pilgrims.

A security source told The Daily Star a ransom was also paid to ensure the pilots' release.

airport road.

The Turkish pilots flew home to Turkey Saturday night, where they were greeted by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, The Daily Star said.

Qatar's foreign minister, Khalid bin Mohammad al-Attiyah, said his country had mediated negotiations for release of the Lebanese hostages.

A group called Zuwwar al-Imam Rida said in August it had kidnapped the pilots, saying they would be released in exchange for the Lebanese hostages, the BBC reported.

They were kidnapped by family members of one of the Lebanese hostages, Hurriyet Daily News reported.

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