Nine Lebanese men who were abducted in Syria in 2012 and freed last October with the help of Qatari negotiators are in Doha today to thank officials.
The men, who are Shia and were accused of being part of Hezbollah, spent 16 months in captivity before being released and sent to Turkey, in exchange for the release of two Turkish pilots held by Lebanese fighters.
According to an Al Jazeera English report, the men returned to Lebanon via a private Qatari jet, accompanied by Qatar’s foreign minister. At the time, Dr. Khaled al-Attiyah said Qatar had helped secure the release of the hostages.
Today, the nine men and and Dr. Rehab Bitar, the ambassador of the European Commission of Human Rights, met with the Emir. According to QNA:
“The delegation expressed their deep thanks and appreciation to the good endeavours Qatar has exerted for their release and bringing them back to Lebanon.”
This is not Qatar’s only high-profile negotiation deal. Last month, the country’s intelligence chief helped negotiate the release of 13 nuns and three attendants in Syria from rebel groups there.
In exchange, several people detained in Syria’s prisons, including female relatives of opposition commanders were released, Al Akhbar reports. The newspaper called the successful negotiation a sign of Qatar’s “growing influence.”
There were also rumors that Qatar paid millions of dollars for the nuns’ release, according to the New York Times.