Lebanon: Two missing, kidnapping and renewed violence feared

Sunni man and teenage neighbor disappear; both are members of prompting Druse leader Walid Jumblatt's Progressive Socialist Party.

lebanon mom 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
lebanon mom 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
The disappearance of a Lebanese man and his teenage neighbor has provoked fears of a return to kidnapping and sectarian violence, as well as appeals for calm. Ziad Qabalan, 25, and Ziad Ghandour, 12, disappeared on Monday after they left their homes in the West Beirut district of Wata al-Mseitbeh and went for a drive. Police listed them as "missing" on Tuesday. Both Qabalan and Ghandour are Sunni Muslim and belong to the Progressive Socialist Party of Druse leader Walid Jumblatt. Leaders of both sides of the political divide and some newspapers are regarding their disappearance as a kidnapping, and are trying to contain the tension in a country where political violence has claimed nine lives in recent months. No group has claimed to have kidnapped them. Some newspapers have speculated that they may have been abducted in revenge for the death of a 29-year-old Shi'ite Hizbullah supporter, Adnan Shamas, during sectarian clashes on Jan. 25. Press reports at the time suggested Shamas had been killed by members of Jumblatt's PSP, a leading anti-Syrian group, and mourners at his funeral called for revenge. Mug shots of Qabalan and Ghandour were splashed on the front pages of local newspapers Wednesday. Police issued a statement asking citizens to come forward if they had any information. Jumblatt urged his supporters to remain calm and allow the authorities to pursue the matter. "I have asked the families of the kidnapped to remain calm and be patient," Jumblatt said during a visit to the homes of the missing. The mother of 12-year-old Ghandour, Samira al-Saghir, was shown weeping on television. "Why are they doing this to us? Why do they want to destroy the country?... We are all Lebanese," she cried. The Shi'ite Muslim Amal movement of the pro-Syrian opposition condemned the "suspicious" development, warning of "black hands seeking to inflame sectarian divisions." The disappearance comes at a time of heightened political and sectarian tensions in Lebanon. The Hizbullah-led opposition, which is pro-Syrian and pro-Iranian, has been campaigning with protests and sit-ins in Beirut since Dec. 1 to oust the Western-backed government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora. The tensions have turned violent on several occasions. Nine people died in clashes between pro- and anti-government groups in December and January.