Two German citizens have been released after they were kidnapped in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley, but police immediately arrested them on drug trafficking charges, the official National News Agency reported.
“The Germans abducted last night in the eastern Bekaa Valley were released today,” NNA said on Saturday.
“After they were freed, a police unit from the Internal Security Force arrested the Germans on charges of drug trafficking, and a search for the abductors is under way,” it reported.
The Germans were seized on Friday by unknown gunmen demanding a ransom for their release, in what a security official said appeared to be a criminal rather than a political act.
Lebanon’s state news agency said a Lebanese soldier was killed in a firefight to arrest the kidnappers.
The two victims had been “taken to an unknown location” after their kidnappers tried in vain to coerce a cash transfer bureau to hand over money in one of the abductees’ names, NNA reported earlier.
“The kidnappers later made a call to one of their friends, demanding ransom,” the agency added.
A police source told the AFP news agency the two kidnapping victims were dual nationals, holding both German and Lebanese citizenship.
The Bekaa Valley, which borders war-hit Syria, is a fertile region where drug cultivation and trafficking has flourished for years.
During the 1975-1990 civil war, the drug trade grew into a multi-billion dollar industry in Lebanon.
The Lebanese authorities have struggled to eradicate the drug trade and carry out repeated army and police patrols in the region to impose the law, but farmers who mostly cultivate hashish constantly defy them.
The kidnapping was the first of its kind since 2011, when a group of seven Estonian cyclists were abducted for four months.