Manhunt launched after unknown gunmen kidnap prominent Lebanese Forces political leader

Manhunt launched after unknown gunmen kidnap prominent Lebanese Forces political leader
Pascal Sleiman, the leader of the Lebanese Forces in Jbeil, north Lebanon, was kidnapped by unknown gunmen on Sunday, sparking a manhunt.
2 min read
08 April, 2024
Sleiman is the second senior Lebanese Forces to be targeted in the last year. [Photo taken from X].

Pascal Sleiman, the leader of the Christian Lebanese Forces (LF) party in north Lebanon's Jbeil district, was kidnapped on Sunday, sparking widespread protest among supporters and politicians across the political spectrum.

The whereabouts of Sleiman and the perpetrators behind his kidnapping are both unknown, though Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati has mobilised the security establishment to find him.

Sleiman was kidnapped by at least three gunmen Sunday evening in Kharbeh, a town in the mountains above Jbeil.

Live Story

The Lebanese army said on Monday morning that Lebanese security services had arrested several Syrians for involvement in the kidnapping operation. It said that it had not yet located him nor determined the motive for the kidnapping.

"The situation does not look promising … We are in continuous correspondence with the security agencies; until now, they have very minimal information," Marc Saad, a spokesperson for the LF, told The New Arab.

Supporters of the LF in Jbeil gathered and blocked off highways in protest of Sleiman's kidnapping. Samir Geagea, the head of the LF, visited Jbeil, a rarity for the security-conscious official who rarely leaves party headquarters in Maarab.

MPs and religious figures from different parties condemned the kidnapping and called for a restoration of the rule of law in Lebanon.

"The security services must immediately uncover the truth about Pascal Sleiman's kidnapping in order to maintain security in the national interest and to avoid all forms of incitement, threats and escalation," Mark Daou, an independent MP, wrote on X.

Sleiman is the second senior LF official targeted in the last year. In August, former LF party coordinator Elias Hasrouni was kidnapped and murdered in Bint Jbeil region, south Lebanon.

Live Story

The LF and other Christian parties accused Hezbollah of being behind the killing, but the official investigation into the murder of Hasrouni has yet to conclude.

Lebanon has suffered a rash of kidnappings, targeting businessmen and foreign tourists, since the beginning of its financial crisis in the fall of 2019. In May 2023, a Saudi tourist was freed by the Lebanese army after being kidnapped in Beirut and taken by a gang to the Syrian-Lebanese border.

"It is better to wait before we can declare that this is a pattern [of targeting LF] or not. Either way, we should not let this carry forward; we should not allow this to become a pattern," Saad said.