No one is safe when travelling, not even airline crew members who are just doing their job. Just this past Friday, gunmen in the Lebanese capital of Beirut jumped a van that was travelling from the Beirut-Rafik Hariri International Airport. This van was carrying two Turkish Airlines crew members, both of which were kidnapped. One was a pilot and the other was a co-pilot for Turkish Airlines.
Lebanese officials said that six men carrying guns ambushed the van while it was travelling down a road in Beirut. After the van pulled over, the armed men took the two Turkish Airlines members, both of whom were Turkish nationals, and let everyone else go.
So far, there has been no claim as to who kidnapped these two men or why they were kidnapped. Typically, when terrorist groups perform such an act, they claim it publicly. Most officials seem to believe that this incident has to do with the civil war that is going on in Lebanon. The Syrian rebels have been holding nine Lebanese hostages since last year. The rebels are currently backed by Turkey.
The Turkish Airlines flight that these crew members were supposed to be on had 144 passengers on board. The pilot and co-pilot were working on flight number 828, which was a flight from Istanbul to Beirut. Officials are still investigating the road kidnapping and the events that led up to it. Right now the road has been closed off with police checkpoints. However, at this point, the police fear there is very little they can do.
The police, however, are questioning the driver to see if he will be able to identify any of the gunmen who took part in the abduction. Oddly enough, some news sources in Lebanon are reporting a different number of gunmen. Some are saying that there were six, and others claim there were eight. The difference in numbers has yet to be explained.
Levent Gumrukcu, who is a Foreign Ministry spokesperson in Turkey, said that the kidnapping has been confirmed. The rest of the flight crew is still safe in Beirut and they are expected to make a return to Turkey next Friday. There is no word yet as to why this was done or what purpose it serves.
The civil war that has Lebanon divided has been going on for a long time now. So far, the conflict in Syria has already claimed over 100,000 lives. It started back in March of 2011, and the fighting has not stopped since. Judging by the look of things, it does not appear that this civil war will end anytime soon.
Governments across the world are, of course, warning everyone who travels to Lebanon to be careful and to use their best judgment. This warning is not much different than the travel warnings that have been in place since the civil war broke out years ago. It is likely that these travel warnings will remain in place for some time, even after the fighting has stopped. Only time will tell if these Turkish Airlines members who were kidnapped will be released safely or not.