OTTAWA (Reuters) - Two Canadian citizens have safely left Syria, Ottawa said on Monday, though it declined to address a media report the pair had been seeking to arrange the return of two young children from neighboring Lebanon.
"We are relieved? that two Canadian citizens have safely left Syria. The government of Canada provided assistance to the Canadians while they were in Syria and will continue to do so," foreign ministry spokeswoman Amy Mills said in an email.
She did not give further details, citing Canada's privacy legislation.
A BBC reporter on Monday said Sean Allen Moore and Jolly Bimbachi had been handed over to Turkey after being held hostage for months by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadist alliance spearheaded by the former al Qaeda affiliate in Syria.
Reuters could not independently verify the BBC report.
Bimbachi and Moore, both residents of Chatham, Ontario, had flown to Lebanon in the fall to reunite Bimbachi with her two children after her ex-husband refused to return them, Chatham politician Jeff Bultje said in a phone interview.
Bultje said he thought the two were taken hostage shortly after that, while trying to drive through Syria to Turkey.
Bultje said Moore told him shortly before Christmas 2017, "everything went well, he was successful in what he was doing and he was going to be back in Canada in the new year."
The two men knew each other from the time they had spent in Iraqi Kurdistan in 2016, he added.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto; Editing by Denny Thomas and Susan Thomas)