A Kuwaiti national has been kidnapped in Lebanon by a group of unknown assailants, stoking fears of a spillover of violence from the conflict in neighbouring Syria.
The Lebanese National News Agency reported on Saturday the kidnapping happened in the town of Howsh al-Ghanam in the Bekaa valley.
A security official said there had been a number of kidnappings for ransom that are unrelated to political tensions or the conflict gripping neighbouring Syria.
“There are no signs that the kidnapping was politically motivated,” he said.
Kuwait and several other Gulf states last week ordered their nationals to leave the country in the face of threats, particularly against Saudis and Qataris.
Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from Lebanon, said the powerful al-Meqdad clan, which admitted to recent revenge kidnappings, had denied any involvement in the abduction of the Kuwaiti.
“There have been kidnappings in Lebanon, and some of those were for ransom by criminals, but the main reason behind the kidnappings is because groups here say they want a family member to be released in Syria where they are being held,” Bays said.
Bays added that a Lebanese male hostage was confirmed released in Syria on Saturday and he had spoken to Al Jazeera on camera.
Hussein Ali Omar, one of 11 Lebanese Shia pilgrims, was shown crossing the border into Turkey, and then spoke to Al Jazeera praising his captors.
“We thank the brothers, rebels of Syria, for their treatment… We have been guests, not captives,” Omar said.
“All the other pilgrims are safe and sound. We have been very well treated, as if we were at home.
“We call on the Lebanese people and the dormant Arab peoples, to stand up and support this oppressed people of Syria,” he said.
The Syrian captors said in a statement that Omar was released as a “goodwill gesture” in response to a request by a group of Lebanese Muslim clerics.
The statement said that the fate of the remaining captives would be determined “after sending letters to countries neighbouring Syria”. It did not elaborate.
The Turkish foreign ministry welcomed Omar’s release and voiced hopes that the remaining pilgrims “will be released as soon as possible.”
“It is clear that such actions as hostage-taking will benefit nobody in the region which has been passing through a delicate time,” the ministry said in a statement.
“Putting an end to such actions without harming anyone is quite important for regional stability.”
Lebanese media had reported that four of the hostages were killed when a government warplane bombed the northern Syrian town of Aazaz earlier this month.