ISTANBUL — Two Turkish pilots kidnapped in Lebanon were freed Saturday as part of a deal that saw nine abducted Lebanese pilgrims in Syria released from captivity, officials said.
Turkish television channels showed live images Saturday night of pilots Murat Akpinar and Murat Agca arriving at an airport in Istanbul. They arrived on a Qatar Executive private jet.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other officials greeted the pilots on the tarmac.
Akpinar and Agca had been held by militants since their kidnapping in August in Beirut. Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency issued a bulletin Saturday announcing the pilots’ release, without offering any other details.
The Turks’ release is part of a negotiated hostage deal that included the freeing of the kidnapped pilgrims, as well as dozens of women held in Syrian government jails.
The nine Shiite pilgrims, kidnapped in May 2012 while on their way from Iran to Lebanon via Turkey and Syria, were expected to arrive in Beirut later Saturday night.
It’s unclear if the third part of the deal has been executed, which calls for the release several dozen women held in Syrian government jails. That was a key demand of Syrian rebels who were holding the Lebanese pilgrims.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.