TURKEY CALLED ON its citizens to leave Lebanon following the kidnapping of two Turkish Airlines pilots by gunmen in Beirut earlier today.
“Given the current situation it is vital that our citizens avoid all travel to Lebanon,” the foreign ministry in a statement posted on its website.
“We suggest that citizens who are still in Lebanon return to Turkey if they can, or if they have to remain, to take all measures to ensure their personal safety and be vigilant,” it added.
It said Ankara expected the Lebanese government to take “all necessary measures” to ensure the safety of Turkish citizens in the country.
Gunmen kidnapped the pilots in an ambush on a bus carrying members of a Turkish Airlines crew from Beirut airport to a hotel.
The kidnap is believed to be linked to the abduction of nine Lebanese Shiite Muslim pilgrims in Syria, whose families have urged Turkey to use its influence to secure their release.
“A kidnapping operation took place at 3:00am targeting a bus carrying several members of a Turkish Airlines crew going from the airport to the hotel,” Charbel said.
“Gunmen kidnapped two passengers from the bus, the pilot and co-pilot,” he added.
Lebanese sources said four gunmen were involved, and that seven other passengers on the bus were not targeted.
An airport source said the rest of the crew boarded a plane to Istanbul this afternoon.
- AFP, 2013