Armed assailants in Beirut intercepted a bus carrying Turkish Airlines personnel from the city’s airport early Friday and kidnapped a pilot and co-pilot.
A previously unknown group claimed responsibility for the kidnappings, issuing a statement suggesting the pilots would be released in return for the freedom of nine Lebanese Shiites kidnapped by Syrian rebels last year near the Turkish border. Families of the Lebanese hostages have long called on Turkey, a close ally of the Sunni Muslim rebels in Syria, to use its influence to secure their release.
Turkish officials said that they did not know who abducted the pilots or why, and that they were in close touch with Lebanese authorities on the matter. The attack could signal further spread of the civil war in Syria into Lebanon.