Saturday, November 2, 2013

Lebanon: Two German Nationals Abducted by Drug Dealers Over Disagreement, Complicity

According to The Associated Press, two unidentified German nationals were briefly kidnapped on Friday (November 1) in the eastern Bekaa Valley and were released early on Saturday (November 2), as a gunfight between their abductors and security forces resulted in a death of a Lebanese soldier and one of the kidnappers.

It wasn't immediately clear what led to the Germans being abducted in the Valley, a popular tourist destination home to wineries and temples, though also dominated by powerful armed clans and a center of Lebanon's drug trade.

Early reports suggest that the two Germans were seized Friday night while en-route to the towns of Shleifa and Deir al-Ahmar.

Media reports suggest that the two Germans had an argument with drug dealers over a payment. Another security official said gunmen seized the two Germans and demanded they withdraw some $3,000 dollars from their credit card, then demanded $5,000 more. Both said the gunmen involved had a history of drug smuggling in a region known for its marijuana crop.

COMMENT:  The drug traffickers released the Germans early Saturday under unclear circumstances.  The hostages later made their way to Beirut, where they were detained by patrolling soldiers.

At dawn Saturday, Lebanese troops surrounded the suspected kidnappers in the nearby village of Deir al-Wasaa, sparking a firefight that killed a soldier and a gunman.

Clans in the valley often use hostage-taking as a method of resolving conflicts, though it's unusual for foreigners to be kidnapped. The last major kidnapping involving foreigners in Lebanon was in March 2011, when seven Estonians were abducted. They were released four months later.

Understandably, the two Germans are being held for questioning. Germany's Foreign Ministry said in a statement Saturday that they were in contact with their countrymen  and confirmed the two were being held by police.

Rule # 1 in traveling in any foreign country is two open local laws, which seemingly was not a high priority for the two Germans who got themselves jammed up with drug traffickers.

Most Western foreign affairs agencies have already cautioned their nationals on increasing personal risks in traveling to Lebanon and may have discouraged all travel to Lebanon or suggested essential travel only.

Germany's Federal Foreign Office has released an updated travel warning, but is only available in the German language.  For details, please go to:

http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/EN/AAmt/Uebersicht_node