Nine Lebanese hostages in Syria and two Turkish hostages in Lebanon were released, on October 19th 2013. The return of each group was celebrated in the Beyrouth and Istanbul airports.
The nine shiite Lebanese hostages had been abducted by the Al-Nusra front (North Storm Squad), 17 months ago, on their way back from a pilgrimage in Iran. The jihadists requested for their liberation a ransom of 150 million US dollars from the Hezbollah, to whom they accused the pilgrims of belonging.
In the face of Hezbollah’s refusal, the ’’Zuwar al-Imam Rida group’’, abducted two Turkish civilian pilots in Lebanon, two and a half months ago, and demanded that Turkey intervene to free the pilgrims.
Finally, the Lebanese were freed at Azaz (north of Syria), then transfered to Eid al-Adha (Turkey), while the Turkish hostages were released in Beyrouth.
In Turkey, Prime Minister Erdogan, who had come to welcome the hostages, loudly congratulated himself for the successful outcome of the operation. He purportedly ordered the MIT (secret service of Hakan Fidan, whose budget is higher than that of the Prime Minister) to send a commando to Syria to fetch the Lebanese hostages, all of which is supposed to have taken place without firing a shot or a ransom payment. They were allegedly transferred by military plane to Turkey, while the Turkish hostages were being released.
In Lebanon, the Western press also speaks of a victory and mentions the liberation of Syrian prisoners in great numbers. But no one has attended these liberations, nor is able to identify the people who were supposedly freed. Syria has denied such allegations.
Belying the statements of the Turkish Prime Minister, the two hostage groups were repatriated by Qatar-owned planes.
We can thus retain that :
Turkey does not pay ransoms to hostage-takers, especially not to members of Al-Qaeda, but to Qatar instead, who then passes it on (same scenario as for France’s liberation of the Bulgarian nurses in Libya) ; - Qatar is no longer militarily involved in Syria, but finances, on a humanitarian basis, one of the two Al-Qaeda branches in Syria, the Al-Nusra front, in exchange for the hostages.