Lebanese army frees kidnapped Saudi national in special operation near Syria border

Lebanon’s PM hails rescue of man taken by unidentified assailants dressed as security personnel from a restaurant on the Beirut seafront

Illustrative -- A picture taken on an army-organized press tour shows a Lebanese army soldier with the 6th brigade guarding the Lebanese-Syrian border on August 28, 2017 (PATRICK BAZ / AFP)
Illustrative -- A picture taken on an army-organized press tour shows a Lebanese army soldier with the 6th brigade guarding the Lebanese-Syrian border on August 28, 2017 (PATRICK BAZ / AFP)

BEIRUT — A Saudi national who had been kidnapped in Beirut has been freed in a “special operation” by the Lebanese army near the Syrian border, it said in a statement Tuesday.

“An army intelligence patrol managed to free kidnapped Saudi national Mashari al-Mutairi during a special operation on the Syrian border,” the army said.

“A number of those involved in the kidnapping were also arrested,” it added.

A senior Lebanese security source had told AFP on Monday that, based on preliminary information, the Saudi was kidnapped by unidentified assailants dressed as security personnel in a four-wheel drive vehicle on the Beirut seafront, where he had been in a restaurant.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati congratulated the army on the “great effort deployed to release him and arrest those involved in the kidnapping.”

According to Saudi government-owned television channel Al-Ekhbariya, the kidnappers had demanded a ransom.

Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati heads a cabinet meeting in Beirut, Lebanon, January 18, 2023. (Bilal Hussein/AP)

Kidnappings of Arab or foreign nationals in Lebanon have been rare in recent years.

The last one occurred in July 2022, when a Saudi was abducted on arrival at Beirut airport.

Since 2021, Saudi citizens have had to obtain their government’s permission before traveling to Lebanon because of strained diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Saudi Arabia returned its ambassador to Beirut in April 2022, just over five months after recalling him amid a diplomatic dispute pitting Lebanon against several Gulf monarchies.

Relations between Beirut and the Gulf Arab states had become strained in the face of the growing influence in Lebanon of the pro-Iranian Shiite terror movement Hezbollah.

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