Five Czechs abducted in Lebanon freed after seven-month ordeal

Five Czechs abducted in Lebanon freed after seven-month ordeal
Five Czech nationals abducted last year in east Lebanon, in a case believed to be tied to the detention of a suspected Lebanese arms dealer in Prague, have been released.
2 min read
02 February, 2016
The freed hostages are now in Lebanese custody and will be repatriated to Prague [AFP]
Five Czech nationals abducted in eastern Lebanon in mid-July last year have been released to Lebanese authorities, according to Lebanon's National News Agency.

In a statement (in Czech), the Czech foreign ministry said they are in "satisfactory health", and that a special aircraft will be sent shortly to bring them home.

The Czech nationals were believed to have been kidnapped to be swapped for a Lebanese man in Prague.

They have previously been identified as Jan Svarc, Adam Homsi, Miroslav Dobes, Pavil Kofron and Martin Psik.

It was not clear whether their driver, Saeb Fayyad, who went missing with them, was also released.

Fayyad is the brother of Ali Fayyad, a Lebanese man detained in Prague on charges of arms trafficking. One of the five Czech abductees was his lawyer.

It was not clear either if any ransom was paid for their release.

The United States accused Ali Fafyad of collaborating with terrorists, after allegedly selling weapons and drugs to agents pretending to be members of a Colombian terrorist organisation

Security sources told Lebanon's The Daily Star their release came after a message was passed last Wednesday to relatives of Ali Fayyad, promising he would be "freed."

Fayyad had been arrested at the behest of US authorities who are seeking to have him extradited.

The hostages were released on the same day a Lebanese newspaper reported that the abductors of the five Czechs were seeking to swap them for Ali Fayyad.

An-Nahar newspaper reported that an unnamed security official had agreed to deport Fayyad "within 24 hours of the release of the Czechs."

The five Czechs include two journalists and a security official in addition to Fayyad's lawyer.

In 2011, seven Estonian cyclists were abducted at gunpoint in the Bekaa Valley and released four months later.

Some areas of the Bekaa Valley, east of the capital Beirut, are notorious for lawlessness and drug trafficking.

Jihadists are also operating in and near the eastern border regions, often clashing with Lebanese army forces.