BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army’s intelligence directorate has found and freed Saudi citizen Mashari al-Mutairi, who had been kidnapped, after a security operation on the border with Syria.
Several of those involved in the kidnapping were arrested, according to a statement by the army command on Tuesday.
The Saudi national was taken to the Lebanese minister of defense following his release under the protection of heavy security.
The Lebanese interior minister said the army carried out searches in the northern Bekaa region to free the Saudi national and that nine people had been arrested in connection with the kidnapping.
Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon, Walid al-Bukhari, said during a press confrence that Mutairi passed all medical examinations that had been carried following his release from captivaty.
Mutairi, an administrative employee in the Saudi Arabian Airlines’ Beirut office, is now under the protection of the Army Intelligence Office in Hermel.
The kidnapping was reportedly carried out on Saturday night in Beirut. The kidnappers used two stolen cars. The Lebanese army identified four of kidnappers and raided their homes.
The army said three of kidnappers were disguised in military uniforms. The army had arrested people during raids carried out in Al-Sharawneh neighborhood in Baalbek and Chtaura. Some of the raids were carried out to put pressure on the kidnappers to release Al-Mutairi.
The kidnappers were planning to take Al-Mutairi to Syria through an area near the Lebanese-Syrian border.
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said the government would continue to protect citizens and foreigners in the country.
Commenting on the incident, he said: “The kidnapping of a Saudi citizen is condemned by all standards, and we congratulate the army for the great effort it made to release him and arrest those involved in the kidnapping.
“We are keen on the return of all Arab brothers to Lebanon and preventing any threat to them, in addition to preventing the use of Lebanese territory as a springboard for any action that threatens the security and safety of Arab countries.”
On Monday, the Saudi Embassy in Lebanon said it was “contacting authorities in Beirut to uncover the circumstances of the disappearance of a Saudi citizen.”
The embassy had confirmed in a statement that it had received “a notification from the family of a Saudi citizen about losing contact with him.”
Instructions had been issued to employees of the Saudi Embassy in Lebanon not to move around on the city’s streets.
The statement read: “The Saudi citizen, Mashari M., who is an employee of Saudi Airlines in Beirut and lives in the Aramoun area in Mount Lebanon, was kidnapped at around 3 a.m. on Saturday in Beirut. The kidnappers contacted his family from the southern suburbs of Beirut and demanded a financial ransom.”
A $400,000 ransom had been demanded for the return of the citizen in audio messages from the kidnappers.
The Lebanese security services had monitored three locations in the southern suburbs of Beirut, Hazmieh and Dahr Al-Baidar, and his car was later found in the Bekaa region.
It is believed that Al-Mutairi was last seen in the Biel area of central Beirut, and was spotted on the road traveling toward Beirut Airport, which leads to the Aramoun area.
Al-Arabiya TV reported that the Lebanese security services had initial leads about the people who had carried out the kidnapping.
Minister of the Interior Bassam Mawlawi had been monitoring the situation with internal security forces, and was in contact with Waleed Bukhari, the Kingdom’s ambassador to Lebanon, following the incident.
Mawlawi later tweeted: “With an iron fist, we work to liberate any citizen who is exposed to any harm on Lebanese soil.