Lebanese officials are investigating the human trafficking of Syrian children after a U.S. journalist published an article this week titled, “I bought four Syrian children.” Lebanoese Interior Minister Nohad El Machnouk opened the investigation after journalist Franklin Lamb claimed he had purchased four Syrian children to save them from a Syrian woman who was trying to sell them in Beirut, the Middle East Monitor reported Wednesday. 

Lamb said he purchased for $600 two 5-year-old girls, and a 1-year-old boy and his 8-year-old brother. He said the woman could not care for the children and needed the money to travel to Turkey and then on to Greece where many Syrian refugees have arrived in recent months in hopes of obtaining aslyum in Western Europe. 

“The vendor-woman claimed to have been a neighbor of the four children in Aleppo and that they lost their parents in the war,” he wrote for Counter Punch. 

Lamb said he stayed with the children for several days as he contacted authorities to try to secure them safe housing. He was not successful, he said. He did not explain what ultimately happened to the children. 

“The children were well taken care of by my friend and I. They were soon cooking and eating American cuisine, including baked fudge brownies and chocolate chip cookies, as well as enjoying my country-style homemade macaroni and cheese, homemade banana pancakes with [fake] Aunt Jemima maple syrup from the local supermarket, and my chicken vegetable soup, not to mention some very delicious Ethiopian food, which they helped my friend prepare,” he wrote.

Zeina Allouche, founder and executive director of Badael Alternatives, a Lebanese nongovernmental organization that advocates for children separated from their biological parents, was critical of Lamb’s article and said the journalist had engaged in human trafficking.

More than 7 million Syrian children are in need of humanitarian aid from the nation’s five-year civil war, including 2.6 million children who are no longer in school and 2 million living as refugees, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund. There are about 1.3 million Syrian refugees registered with the United Nations in Lebanon.