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Kuwaiti kidnapped in Lebanon freed

No ransom was paid to allow Al Houti to go home: official

Image Credit: Reuters
Kuwaiti hostage Essam Al Houti (right) with his wife Fawzia and daughter Hana, after being released in Baalbek city in the BekaaValley. Al Houti said he was beaten up and his captors treated him roughly, especially at the beginning of his ordeal.
Gulf News

Manama: Essam Al Houti, the Kuwait oil engineer abducted in Lebanon on Saturday, has been freed without ransom.

Reports said that Al Houti, 52, was rescued by the Lebanese army following operations by the country’s security forces and heavy pressure from Kuwait City and Beirut.

In his first statement, Al Houti said that he was beaten up and that his captors were rough with him, especially at the beginning of the ordeal.

“They fired on the ground to scare me, hit me with the butts of their guns and tore my shirt as they kidnapped me,” he said in Beirut. “They blindfolded me and later put me in a dark place and chained me.”

He said that the abductors accused him of being a terrorist and the leader of an organisation affiliated with the Free Syrian Army.

“I told them that I was not interested in politics, but they insulted me and asked me about whom I was funding. I told them that I was a Kuwaiti citizen and that I was visiting with my wife on the occasion of Eid. They kept asking me about how much money I had,” he said, quoted on Tuesday by Lebanese Arabic daily Al Mustaqbal.

Al Houti is reportedly married to a Lebanese national, Fawzia Arafat, 28, and the couple and their daughter, two, were holidaying near her native village when he was kidnapped.

“When they released me, they put me in a car trunk and took me on a dirt road near a church,” he said. “I thank all those who stood by me.”

Reports said that the captors had asked for a $2 million (Dh7.3 million) ransom to allow the Kuwaiti citizen to go home.

Bassam Tlais, an executive member of the Amal Movement tasked by Lebanese parliament Speaker Nabih Berri with monitoring the case, denied claims that Al Houti was released after a ransom was paid.

“The security and popular pressures made the abductors aware that they could not protect themselves or Essam,” he said, quoted by the daily.

According to Kuwaiti daily Al Seyassah, Al Houti and his wife and daughter will leave Lebanon promptly and move to Kuwait.