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Five Czech men freed after Lebanon kidnap ordeal

Update: February, 02/2016 - 15:46

PRAGUE — Five Czech men who were kidnapped in Lebanon in July were freed late on Monday and are in the care of Lebanese security forces, Prague said.

The Czech foreign ministry said in a statement that the five "are alive and, according to our information, in satisfactory health", adding that a special plane would be sent to repatriate them shortly.

The ministry declined to give further details due to "the investigation underway managed by the anti-organised crime department (UOOZ) of the Czech police".

Their release appeared to be tied to the detention of a Lebanese man in Prague, with a Lebanese security official telling AFP: "The release of the five Czechs... is the final part of an exchange deal, (that) includes the release of the Lebanese detainee in Prague, Ali Taan Fayyad."

Another Lebanese security source, also speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the deal.

The five Czechs and their local driver disappeared in mid-July. Their car was found later in the Kefraya region of eastern Lebanon's Bekaa Valley.

Media reported that the kidnap may have been linked to the case of Fayyad, a Lebanese man held in Czech custody in connection with suspected arms smuggling.

Fayyad's brother was the Lebanese citizen who was kidnapped, and his defence lawyer was among the Czech group.

Kidnappings of foreigners have been rare in Lebanon since its 1975-1990 civil war when some 100 foreigners, mostly Americans and western Europeans, were snatched.

The Bekaa Valley is notorious in parts for lawlessness, drug trafficking and occasional feuding between clans. — AFP

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