Five Czechs feared kidnapped in Lebanon: military source

BEIRUT: Lebanese authorities are searching for five Czechs feared kidnapped along in the eastern Bekaa Valley, a military source said Saturday.

The five, along with their Lebanese driver, have been missing since Friday night, when their car was discovered in the Kefraya region in the western part of the Bekaa.

"We don't know what happened to them but we assume they were kidnapped because we found their passports and documents and belongings in the car," the source said.

"We are carrying out searches of local hotels and other places in the area."

Kidnappings have been rare in Lebanon since the 1975-1990 civil war, when some 100 foreigners, mostly Americans and West Europeans, were snatched.

But some cases have been recorded, often for ransom and involving Lebanese as well as foreigners.

In the most high-profile case in recent years, seven Estonian cyclists were kidnapped at gunpoint in the Bekaa in 2011, being released some four months later.

The group claiming the abduction was previously unknown, and its motives were never entirely clear.

A ransom was reportedly paid, but that was never confirmed by any side.

The Bekaa Valley is notorious in parts for lawlessness, drug trafficking and occasional feuding between clans.

In 2013, two German men were kidnapped in the region by abductors seeking a ransom.

They were released a few hours later, but subsequently arrested by Lebanese authorities on drug trafficking charges.