Police: Tourists abducted in Lebanon shown on tape

AP News
Posted: Apr 20, 2011 8:29 AM
Police: Tourists abducted in Lebanon shown on tape

An online video posted Wednesday shows seven Estonian tourists who were kidnapped in Lebanon more than three weeks ago pleading for help, authorities said.

The video, which was posted by local news website lebanonfiles.com and uploaded on YouTube, shows the tourists asking Lebanese, Saudi, Jordanian and French leaders to help secure their release.

"This is a really difficult situation," one of the tourists says. "Please do everything that it takes to get us home."

Wearing sports clothes and appearing before a white background, the tourists take turns saying "Please help us."

The Estonians were cycling in the eastern Bekaa Valley when armed men wearing masks kidnapped them on March 23.

It was note clear whether the kidnappings were politically motivated, like the wave of abductions during Lebanon's civil war. But Wednesday's video was reminiscent of darker days during the conflict when extremists kidnapped foreign hostages and sent out videos of them making demands to media.

In Tallinn, the Estonian foreign ministry said it received the video clip by email late Wednesday.

The ministry said "it appears that all seven abducted Estonian citizens are alive and well" but stressed that the video message did not include any demands or information who is behind the kidnapping.

Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves said he was aware of the YouTube video and was following events closely.

"No demands of any sort have been presented to Estonia and, as far as we know, to any other countries," Ilves said.

A Lebanese security official said authorities in Beirut also were investigating and that there were unconfirmed reports that the Estonians were moved across the border to Syria.

He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

A previously unheard-of group called Harakat al-Nahda wal-Islah _ Movement for Renewal and Reform _ has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and demanded an unspecified ransom in an email sent earlier to lebanonfiles.com.

On April 11, a police intelligence officer and a main suspect in the kidnapping were killed on April 11 in a shootout in the border village of Majdal Anjar, notorious for harboring Sunni fundamentalist fugitives, police said at the time.