Saudi Arabia has urged its citizens to leave Lebanon “immediately” after a string of kidnappings in the country. The Saudi embassy in Beirut cited the “reported threats to kidnap Saudi citizens” in Lebanon, which borders Syria, state-run Spa news agency said. Earlier, a clan in Lebanon said it had abducted a number of Syrians who belonged to the rebel Free Syrian Army. It said this was in retaliation for the kidnapping of a clan member in conflict-wracked Syria.
The Saudi embassy issued its warning on Wednesday. A foreign ministry official was also quoted by Spa as saying Saudi citizens should avoid “travelling to Lebanon for their own safety”. This comes after the powerful Mekdad clan in Lebanon said it had abducted a number of Syrians who it said were connected to Syrian rebels. A Turkish national is also reported to be among those seized.
The Shia Muslim clan said it had acted to force the release of one of its members captured in the Syrian capital, Damascus. The rebels said the seized man was connected to the Lebanese Islamist movement Hezbollah and was fighting for the Syrian government – a claim denied by the Mekdad clan.
The clan has also threatened nationals from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey – all Sunni Muslim countries that support the Syrian rebels fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad. Lebanon is a popular tourist destination for Saudis and citizens of other Gulf states. Like Syria’s other neighbours – Turkey, Iraq and Jordan – Lebanon has absorbed thousands of refugees fleeing from the conflict.
But unlike the other countries, Lebanon risks being plunged into sectarian strife, possibly even civil war, by the strains inflicted on its own delicate internal situation by the Syrian crisis, correspondents say. Tripoli – Lebanon’s second city – has recently witnessed street gun battles between supporters and opponents of President Assad. SOURCE