Dubai: A powerful Shiite Muslim clan in Lebanon, Al Meqdad, on Thursday claimed to have abducted more Syrian nationals and vowed further kidnappings in retaliation for the seizure of a family member by rebels in Syria this week, as Syria’s civil war threatened to spark violent rivalries in its neighbour Lebanon.
The wave of kidnappings raises the dire scenario that the battle for control of Syria will ignite tensions in Lebanon, a country with an explosive sectarian mix, with deep divisions between pro- and anti-Syrian factions and with its own history of civil war.
Meamwhile, Al Arabiya tele-vision reported that a cousin of Syrian Vice President Farouk Al Shara has defected on Thursday, broadcasting a statement in which he called on members of the Syrian army to join the “revolution”.
“The cousin of the Syrian Vice President Farouk Al Shara announces his defection in an exclusive recording via Al- Arabiya,” the news anchor read after the broadcast. It identified the speaker as Yarab Al Shara.
The Syrian National Council condemned the kidnap of 33 Syrian citizens and said the move is quite serious and might lead the region into dangerous consequences. Dr Abdul Basit Sida, Chairman of the SNC, told Gulf News the situation is not acceptable and called on the Lebanese government to react swiftly and protect Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
The kidnappings prompted Gulf countries to issue travel warnings and urged its citizens to urgently leave Lebanon. On Wednesday, supporters of the family clan went on a rampage in a Beirut neighbourhood, vandalizing Syrian-run stores, and then blocked the road to the airport, setting tyres on fire and roaming the road with weapons.
In past months, gunfights have erupted between pro- and anti-Syrian groups in Lebanon, including a May clash in the northern city of Tripoli that left eight people dead.
Syrian President Bashar Al Assad has named two new ministers for industry and justice, without saying why the previous ones were replaced, state television reported.
Meanwhile, United Nations humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said yesterday as many as 2.5 million people were in need of urgent aid in Syria during a visit.