Two American journalists vacationing in Lebanon are missing, the U.S. Embassy said on Wednesday, appealing for information on their possible whereabouts.
The two, Holli Chmela, 27, and Taylor Luck, 23, have been working for the Jordan Times and had been expected back in Amman on Saturday, the Amman-based paper's chief editor told The Associated Press.
The U.S. Embassy said in a statement that the two have not been heard from since Oct. 1, when they reportedly left Beirut en route to the northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli.
Chmela and Luck arrived in Lebanon on Sept. 29 from the Jordanian capital on vacation and told a friend on Oct. 1 that they were traveling from Beirut to Tripoli through the coastal town of Byblos that day, the embassy statement said.
They then planned to cross by land into Syria before returning to Jordan on Saturday, the embassy said.
"The families ... are asking for the public's assistance in providing information on the possible whereabouts of the two U.S. citizens," the embassy said. It provided telephone numbers for anyone with information to call on.
Tripoli is a predominantly Sunni Muslim city where militants and Islamic fundamentalists are known to be active. It has witnessed sectarian fighting in the past few months as well as two car bombs targeting Lebanese troops that killed 25 people and left dozens others wounded.
Lebanese security officials told The Associated Press they are searching for the two.
Taylor, who is from the Chicago area, has been a reporter at the Jordan Times for the past 18 months. Chmela, whose last U.S. home was in Washington D.C., worked as an intern at the English-language daily for three months before leaving the job several weeks ago, the paper's chief editor, Samir Barhoumeh, said.
Taylor, who speaks Arabic, planned to go to visit the Syrian city of Aleppo after passing through Lebanon, Barhmoumeh told The Associated Press, adding that as far as he knows Taylor did not enter Syria. Taylor's mother called Barhoumeh on Saturday expressing concern, saying her son did not use his credit card since Oct. 1, Barhoumeh said.
"On Monday we received information that the two journalists are missing," he said.
Chmela and Luck left their Beirut hotel Sept. 30 after a one-night stay, the hotel manager Nimr Shalala said. "They checked out, took all their belongings and didn't say anything," he told AP.
The U.S. Embassy said it was coordinating efforts with embassies in Amman and Damascus as well as with the State Department in Washington.
The embassy issued a statement earlier this week warning its citizens about potential violent actions targeting Americans in Lebanon and calling on them to increase their security awareness. It said the threats were particularly high in the first half of October.
The Lebanese security officials said authorities are searching for the two and are trying to ascertain whether they had left the country. A Jordanian security official confirmed that the two were believed missing. He said U.S. authorities in Beirut were investigating and that Jordanian authorities are not involved. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of regulations and the sensitivity of the issue.