x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Freed Kuwaiti in Lebanon: Kidnappers thought I was FSA commander

A Kuwaiti man freed by gunmen who abducted him last week said his kidnappers accused him of being a leader of the Free Syrian Army rebels.

Freed Kuwaiti Issam Al Houti is reunited with his family following his kidnap ordeal.
Freed Kuwaiti Issam Al Houti is reunited with his family following his kidnap ordeal.

BEIRUT // A Kuwaiti man freed by gunmen who abducted him last week in east Lebanon said his kidnappers accused him wrongfully of being a rebel commander in the Free Syrian Army.

Lebanon's state-run National News Agency said that Issam Al Houti was released yesterday at the home of Bassam Tleyss, a high-ranking member of the Shiite movement Amal of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.

Describing his ordeal, Houti said he was seized in the Bekaa Valley, where he lives, by unknown gunmen who accused him of involvement in the armed opposition against Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.

"They accused me of terrorism and that I am a commander of the terrorist Free [Syrian] Army. I told them I have nothing to do with politics," he said.

Mr Tleyss, meanwhile, denied that he had been commissioned to pay a ransom to secure Houti's release, adding he was freed thanks to popular pressure and the work of the Lebanese security forces.

A Lebanese security official said the kidnapping was likely motivated by money and not politics.

Mr Houti lived in Lebanon and was seized from his car in the town of Howsh Al Ghanam in the Bekaa Valley, according to security officials.

Abductions have fuelled fears of Syria-related violence spilling over into Lebanon, where a Shiite clan kidnapped around 20 Syrians earlier this month in retaliation for the abduction of a family member by a Syrian rebel group.

The UAE and several other Arabian Gulf states ordered their nationals — who often holiday in Lebanon — to leave the country and not to travel this month in the face of threats.

Lebanon's political parties are deeply divided over the Syrian crisis, with the Western-backed opposition supporting the uprising and the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, an ally of the Amal Movement, backing the Assad government.