Turkish forces foil kidnapping of opposition figure

Published January 30, 2013

| Associated Press

Turkish security forces have rescued a Syrian opposition figure allegedly kidnapped by four men who tried to return him to his country, officials said Wednesday.

A statement from the governor's office for the Turkish border province of Hatay said Turkish security forces, acting on an intelligence tip on Tuesday, engaged in a firefight with four Syrians at a forested area near the border and rescued another Syrian they were trying to abduct. Two of the would-be abductors were wounded in the gunfight, while the rescued Syrian was unharmed, it said.

Three of the accused kidnappers were detained while the fourth managed to escape. Police later also detained five Turks allegedly implicated in the failed abduction, the statement said.

The country's state-run Anadolu Agency said the Syrians broke into a home in Hatay, kidnapped a prominent Syrian dissident lawyer and forced him into a car before driving toward the frontier. It said a police vehicle followed the car to the border region before engaging in the firefight.

Anadolu identified the lawyer only by his initials M.E. and described him as a prominent opposition figure.

An official from the Hatay governor's office could not confirm that the target of the abduction was a lawyer.

He said the detained Syrians had entered Turkey legally with their passports. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government rules that bar officials from speaking to reporters without prior authorization.

Turkey, which shares a 560-mile border with Syria, is serving as a base for opposition activists and fighters and there have been other reports of abductions or attempted kidnappings of Syrian opposition figures.

Five people, including a former Turkish intelligence official, are on trial in Turkey for allegedly abducting former Syrian Lt.-Col. Hussein Harmoush -- one of the first Syrian army officers to defect after Syria's uprising began -- and handing him over to Syrian authorities in 2011.

Harmoush appeared on Syrian television soon after his return, retracting comments he had made earlier in which he had called on Syria's army to stand by the people instead of President Bashar Assad's regime. His current whereabouts is unknown.

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