One month ago two busloads of Shiite “pilgrims” were stopped by Syrian “resistance” fighters and eleven of the men were removed and are still detained by their kidnappers. The rest were allowed to travel to a nearby city and fly back to Beirut.
Middle East analyst Avi Melamed explains:
On May 22nd two buses carrying Lebanese men and women entered Syria via the Salama crossing located on the Syrian-Turkish border.
One bus had the sign “Musa Sadr” and the other had the sign “Al Bader Al Kubra” (read the links for the meaning of those names).
Shortly after crossing into Syrian territory the buses were stopped by a group of armed militants. The gunmen abducted six men on the “Sadr” bus and five men on the “Bader Al Kubra” bus and took them to an unknown location. The rest of the passengers were detained by the kidnappers for a few hours, and were then allowed to continue on the buses to the Syrian city of Haleb, located about 35 miles from the crossing. That same night those passengers were flown back to Beirut.
When Hezbollah’s TV station “Al Manar” broadcast the news about the incident, they interviewed the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, by phone. Nasrallah announced that the Lebanese government is “dealing with the incident” and emphasized that he was working together with the leader of the “Amal” organization (another Lebanese Shiite organization) to release the kidnapped as soon as possible.
The kidnapping set off a series of riots in Beirut and Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah pleaded for calm and later called for their release. On June 9th, Al-Jazeera broadcast a video of the eleven men:
But according to Melamed, these aren’t just your typical “Shiite pilgrims”:
Formal Lebanese spokespeople, including Nasrallah himself, refer to the kidnapped as “Lebanese Shiite Pilgrims.”
However, as time goes by, it seems more likely that the prisoners are in fact significant senior military and intelligence officials within Hezbollah.
Reliable information from a variety of sources indicates that at least four of the men are conclusively senior Hezbollah military and intelligence personnel.
The four that have been positively identified are:
Hasan Arzuni: Hezbollah’s Senior Intelligence Official in South Lebanon
Hasan Mahmud: Hezbollah Senior Weapons and Ammunition Official
Abbas Shueib: Head of Hezbollah’s Military Training Division
Ali Hussein Zreib: A member of Hezbollah’s Jihad Council
In addition, according to information supplied by various sources, but not yet conclusively verified, one of the kidnapped is a person named Ali Safa, the nephew of Hassan Nasrallah. One of the sources reported that Ali Safa was trying to escape disguising himself as a woman during the takeover of the bus. It’s possible that that piece of information refers to one of the captives, who on the video introduced himself as Ali Husein Abbas.
According to a VOA News report yesterday, their captors have identified at least five Hezbollah members of the eleven kidnapped men.
What makes this episode so schadenfreude-alicious is that Hezbollah, one of the most active terrorist groups in the world, has made its bones over the past 30 years using two particular terror methods: suicide bombings and kidnappings.
In light of the horrific kidnapping, 15 months of torture and murder of CIA Lebanon station chief William Buckley, the kidnapping, torture and murder of US Marine Colonel Rich Higgins, and the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 and the fatal beating/murder of US Navy Diver Robert Dean Stetham on board that flight, it’s nice to see Hezbollah getting a taste of its own medicine. Let’s hope that these senior Hezbollah terrorists get as good as they gave.