Kidnappings, Murder Gangs Surge in Lebanon, Syria

Lebanese caretaker Interior Minister Basam Mawlawi (NNA)
Lebanese caretaker Interior Minister Basam Mawlawi (NNA)
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Kidnappings, Murder Gangs Surge in Lebanon, Syria

Lebanese caretaker Interior Minister Basam Mawlawi (NNA)
Lebanese caretaker Interior Minister Basam Mawlawi (NNA)

Lebanese authorities investigating the killing of Pascal Sleiman, a coordinator for the Lebanese Forces Party in Jbeil, have arrested Syrian nationals suspected of involvement.

This sheds light on organized crime between Lebanon and Syria, including kidnappings for ransom and cross-border abductions.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, gangs are likely operating on both sides of the Lebanese- Syrian border with the cover of security elements.

The Lebanese Army’s Intelligence Directorate has captured most of the Syrian gang members responsible for Sleiman’s abduction, a security source told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Currently, six individuals are detained, with two still at large in Syria.

Those detained confessed to killing Sleiman during a car theft in Jbeil and moving his body to Syria.

Lebanon’s acting Interior Minister, Basam Mawlawi, stated that investigations into Sleiman’s murder are ongoing with the army.

In statements to Asharq Al-Awsat, Mawlawi emphasized that only the final investigation results can answer questions about whether the incident was a simple theft or more.

The minister added that they are currently tracking the stolen car used in the kidnapping to see if the perpetrators attempted other crimes before Sleiman’s abduction.

He highlighted the involvement of criminal gangs on the Syrian border not only in kidnappings but also in smuggling drugs and people into Lebanon through illegal routes.

“The criminal gangs operating on the Syrian border are not only involved in kidnappings but also in smuggling Captagon and Syrians into Lebanon through illicit crossings,” said Mawlawi.

Mawlawi stated that Syria needs to take responsibility for pursuing these gangs.

“The Syrian government has a responsibility and role in pursuing these gangs, which it currently does not fulfill,” he noted.

The minister also mentioned the Lebanese authorities refusing a request from Damascus to remove surveillance towers on the border.

“We rejected a Syrian request to remove surveillance towers on the border. Instead, we insist on their activation to combat these operations,” said Mawlawi.

Jawad Adra, the head of the regional research and consultancy firm “Information International,” highlighted a significant increase in kidnapping and murder cases in 2024.

He noted that ransom kidnappings have spiked to 8 incidents in the first three months of the year, up from 3 during the same period last year. Adra also mentioned a rise in casualties, from 34 to 83.

Mohammed Shamseddine, a researcher at the institute, suggested that the actual number of kidnappings might be higher due to unreported cases where families pay ransoms directly.

He mentioned organized gangs involved in monitoring, executing, and negotiating in these operations.

Shamseddine added that while criminal murders increased from 29 to 42 during the first three months of the year, car thefts decreased from 328 incidents last year to 185 this year.



Yemen's Houthis Say to Escalate Military Operations in Support of Gaza

A Houthi military helicopter flies over a cargo ship in the Red Sea. (Reuters)
A Houthi military helicopter flies over a cargo ship in the Red Sea. (Reuters)
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Yemen's Houthis Say to Escalate Military Operations in Support of Gaza

A Houthi military helicopter flies over a cargo ship in the Red Sea. (Reuters)
A Houthi military helicopter flies over a cargo ship in the Red Sea. (Reuters)

Yemen's Houthis will continue their military operations and escalate them "in quality and quantity" in support of Palestinians in Israel's war in Gaza, the Iran-backed group's leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi said in a televised speech on Thursday, Reuters reported.

The group have been attacking ships in the Red Sea region since November, forcing shippers to re-route cargo to longer and more expensive journeys around southern Africa.

The group later expanded the scope of its attacks to the Indian Ocean and said it would also target any ships heading towards Israeli ports in the Mediterranean Sea.