Shi'a-Sunni Divide Underscored By Abduction Of Syrian Rebels In Lebanon

  @angeloyoung_a.young@ibtimes.com on August 15 2012 8:57 AM
Syrian Ramadan protest.
Syrian refugees and residents form the words "Syria free" during Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Power) on the holy month of Ramadan during a protest in front of the Syrian embassy in Amman Tuesday night. REUTERS

A prominent Shi'ite clan in Lebanon announced Wednesday it has kidnapped more than 20 Syrian nationals in retaliation for the alleged abduction in Damascus of one of their own by members of the Free Syrian Army, or FSA, the primary rebel force fighting to oust President Bashar Al Assad from power.

"The family's military wing kidnapped several Syrians. We are not afraid of anyone," clan patriarch Abu Ali al-Meqdad was quoted as saying by Lebanese news organization Naharnet.

The news comes as a bomb blast was reported in central Damascus on Wednesday near several military buildings and a hotel housing United Nations staff. Three people were injured, according to Reuters. The FSA took credit for the attack.

Among those that were abducted by the Meqdads in Lebanon within the past 24 hours was a defected member of Assad's army, another member of the clan told the local media. Lebanon's LCBI said a former captain and an officer of the Syrian army were among those abducted. More than 160 people, mostly civilians were killed Tuesday, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Meqdads said they are not taking sides in the Syrian conflict, but some member have strongly criticized the involvement of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey in supporting the Syrian rebellion.  

But, "we just want our son to come back to Lebanon safely," said Maher al-Meqdad, another member of the prominent extended family, according to Reuters.

Hassan Salim al-Meqdad was reportedly detained by the FSA on Monday. The rebel group accused the 39-year-old Lebanese national of being a member of Hezbollah, the Shi'ite Islamic militant group that has for years been widely suspected by Western intelligence and Israel of receiving military and financial support from Iran visa the Assad government. Hezbollah denies any of its members have been detained. Hassan was quoted by Al-Arabiya as saying he's just a banker working in Syria.

The family has said they will continue to abduct FSA members based in Lebanon until Hassan is released.

The FSA is a rebel force backed by predominately Sunni states Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. In Lebanon, the war in Syria is viewed by many Shi'ites within the context of the greater Sunni-Shi'a schism.

To them, the war is viewed partly as a Sunni majority in the region as a whole taking an antagonistic stance against the Shi'ite minority. Shi'ites in Lebanon are often aligned with Hezbollah. Assad is a member of a minority Shi'ite branch in Syria.

LCBI reported that security has been boosted around the embassies of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

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