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Lebanese clan claims it has kidnapped 20 Syrians

A Lebanese Shiite clan claimed yesterday it has kidnapped at least 20 Syrians to try to secure the release of a family member abducted near Damascus.

BEIRUT // A Lebanese Shiite clan claimed yesterday it has kidnapped at least 20 Syrians to try to secure the release of a family member abducted near Damascus.

"They were kidnapped because a member of our family was taken the day before yesterday in Syria," Abu Ali Al Muqdad said, adding that one of the Syrians was injured.

According to Arab television reports, a Syrian rebel group claimed it had kidnapped Hassan Al Muqdad on Monday, accusing him of being a sniper and a Hizbollah fighter.

"He is neither a sniper nor a member of Hizbollah," Mr Al Muqdad said. "All the accusations are a lie. Our demand is not political, this is a humanitarian issue."

The Lebanese television station Al-Mayadeen ran an interview with a member of the Muqdad clan who threatened "further action until Hassan is freed. All Syrians in Lebanon are a legitimate target".

The television channel also broadcast a video of two of those purportedly kidnapped.

"We are working on it," a high-ranking security official said.

Ahmed Shlash, a Syrian MP in Lebanon to negotiate their release, told Al-Mayadeen: "Syrians coming to work in Lebanon should not be dragged into a sectarian struggle. Young people coming to work in Lebanon have nothing to do with politics."

Violence in Syria has spilled over into Lebanon in the form of cross-border shootings, shelling by the Syrian army, tit-for-tat kidnappings and sectarian clashes between groups which are divided over the revolt.

Syrian rebel groups have frequently accused Hizbollah - which is closely allied with the regime of President Bashar Al Assad - of interfering in the violence, though the group has consistently denied this.

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