Turkish Pilots Held Hostage in Lebanon Back Home
Two Turkish pilots who were being held hostage in Lebanon were freed
Murat Akpinar and Murat Agca were seized in Beirut in August in a retaliatory abduction.
They were met by their relatives and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan after flying to Istanbul on a Qatari jet late on Saturday.
A third part of the hostage negotiations – reportedly mediated by Qatar, Turkey and the Palestinian Authority – involved the release of a number of female prisoners being held by the Syrian government.
It is not yet clear whether that has taken place.
In August, Murat Akpinar and Murat Agca were seized from a bus close to Beirut’s international airport. A previously unknown group called Zuwwar al-Imam Rida said it had kidnapped them, and that they would be freed if the Lebanese group were set free.
It demanded that Turkey used its influence with Syrian rebels to make the swap possible.
In response, Turkey advised its citizens in Lebanon to leave if possible.
Turkey has consistently backed Syria’s Sunni rebels, while much of Lebanon’s Shia community supports President Bashar al-Assad.
The pilots’ abduction sparked protests in Lebanon, and growing concerns that the Syrian civil war was spilling over the border.
Earlier this week they appeared in a video broadcast on Lebanese television saying they were both well and wanted to go home.
Then, as word came late on Saturday that the Lebanese citizens were back in Beirut, the pilots arrived in Istanbul.
They told Turkish media that they had been treated well in captivity.
But Mr Akpinar said “first month has been very difficult”.
“We have been transferred eight times, each time as if it was a new kidnapping.””We chose to have a good understanding with them. And we did, so much that one of our (kidnappers) has even decided to call his new son Murat,” Mr Akpinar added.