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Kidnapped Estonian cyclists freed in Lebanon after being held for months

Seven Estonians in their 30s who were kidnapped on March 23 while on a cycling holiday in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley have been freed in the town of Arsal.

TALLINN // Estonia's foreign ministry confirmed yesterday that seven of its citizens held for almost four months in Lebanon had been freed and were being cared for in the French Embassy in Beirut.

"All seven Estonian citizens kidnapped in Lebanon in March were freed early Thursday morning," said the ministry spokeswoman, Minna-Liina Lind.

"The seven Estonians are at the embassy of France at the moment," Ms Lind said.

"The operation to free them was carried out in co-operation with the Estonians, Lebanese and other partners. All of them are in good health. We are currently organising their transport to Estonia."

Lebanese police said the men were freed in the town of Arsal, in the eastern Bekaa Valley.

The men, all in their 30s, were kidnapped on March 23 while on a cycling holiday in the same region.

Juri Kaosaar, father of one of the kidnapped men, Kalev Kaosaar, said they were in good shape.

"I've already talked to my son and both the health and mood of all the men are very good," he said.

"We were also told that before they can come home, they will undergo medical checks in Lebanon. And they also have to collect their bikes," which were found at the kidnap scene, he added.

The abductors, believed to be a previously unknown fundamentalist group called Haraket Al Nahda Wal Islah, had reportedly demanded a ransom but Lebanese authorities said they could not confirm that.

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