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'Gang' kidnaps Saudi in Lebanon — judicial source

By AFP - Jul 25,2022 - Last updated at Jul 25,2022

BEIRUT — Lebanese authorities launched an investigation on Monday into the kidnapping at the weekend of a Saudi lured to the country's eastern city of Bekaa to buy a property, a judicial official said.

The public prosecutor of the Bekaa region instructed security forces to "conduct investigations and gather information on his whereabouts, which is likely the Al Sharawneh neighbourhood" on the outskirts of Baalbek, the official told AFP, asking not to be named.

Unrest and clashes between rival influential families are common in Baalbek, where the Iran-backed Shiite movement Hizbollah is dominant.

The army often conducts raids in the city, notably in Al Sharawneh, over cases of drug trafficking, theft, kidnapping and other crimes.

A "gang" lured the victim to Lebanon to buy property and the man was taken directly to Baalbek on Sunday upon landing in Beirut, the official said.

A ransom demand has not been issued but the Saudi was likely taken "with the aim of financially extorting" him, he said.

In April, a gang kidnapped an Egyptian accountant in Baalbek. He was rescued by the army after two weeks in captivity.

On July 11, a Saudi dissident living in Beirut's southern suburbs was killed, and two of his brothers were arrested in connection with the murder.

The latest kidnapping comes three months after Riyadh announced the return of its ambassador to Beirut, following a diplomatic crisis last year between Lebanon and Arab states in the Gulf.

Riyadh also suspended fruit and vegetable imports from Lebanon in April last year, saying shipments were used for drug smuggling and accusing Beirut of inaction.

Captagon pills, an amphetamine that is wreaking havoc in the kingdom and other Arab states, are produced mainly in Syria, neighbouring the Bekaa, and smuggled to the main consumer markets in the Gulf.

 

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