Rival Lebanese leaders had urged calm on Wednesday after the two were kidnapped on Monday as sectarian tensions in Lebanon rise.

Meanwhile, Lebanese media had reported that the two were kidnapped by members of a Shia clan who had vowed to avenge the killing of their relative in clashes at a Beirut university in January.

   

The Shia Shamas clan, named by the media, condemned the kidnapping and distanced itself from the abduction in a statement on Wednesday.

   

Officials react

 

Fuad Siniora, Lebanon's prime minister, who had earlier described the incident as a terrorist act, appealed for calm after the news of the killing.

"We are in need of calm, patience and discipline,"

Fuad Siniora, Lebanese prime minister

 

"This act aims at dragging the Lebanese toward civil strife," he said in a telephone interview with local television channel LBC. "We are in need of calm, patience and discipline."

 

Grand Ayatollah Sheik Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, Lebanon's most senior Muslim Shia cleric, said the kidnapping was a "major crime whose perpetrators should be prosecuted".

 

Meanwhile, Emile Lahoud, Lebanon's president, requested in a statement that all security measures be taken to prevent "any repercussions of this deplorable incident".

 

Lahoud said the situation in Lebanon "cannot bear such acts that harm stability and further ... increase tension and rekindle strife".

 

Sporadic violence between the mainly Sunni, Druze and Christian ruling coalition and mainly Shia and Christian opposition have killed 10 people since the opposition launched a street campaign to topple the government last year.

 

The political crisis, Lebanon's worst since the 1975-1990 civil war, has at times threatened to spill into Sunni-Shia strife as sectarian tensions run high.