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Travellers' Advisories, Safety and Security on the Road Recent News, political or military events, which may affect trip plans or routes. Personal and vehicle security, tips and questions.
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  #1  
Old 24 Mar 2011
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Lebanon: Estonian Bikers Kidnapped

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/24/wo....html?src=recg
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Old 25 Mar 2011
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not good news for thoise cyclists-
IMHO the way things are now, Islamic countries are to be avoided- way too much unrest there- which is a crying shame-
Hope these guys get out safely
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Old 25 Mar 2011
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Originally Posted by bugsy View Post
IMHO the way things are now, Islamic countries are to be avoided- way too much unrest there-
I think that is a bit too general. But, as usual, stay away from crowds, etc. Then again, that's what the cyclists did...

I don't think you can call Lebanon an Islamic country, either.
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Old 2 Jun 2011
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It's not an issue of Islamic countries - Lebanon isn't one by any stretch and this is looking like a bit of a freak thing. They got pinched in one of the safer areas, which happens to be near a training camp for a Palestinian group that has acted on Syria's behest before. The newspapers are mostly explaining it as a ransom but word is that they were identified at the Syrian border as good targets and word was passed to the Palestinian group, who pinched them to be held as some kind of insurance in case there was an international intervention against Syria.

The Daily Star is a very reliable newspaper and has a lot of details of this case.
THE DAILY STAR :: Breaking News, Lebanon News, Middle East News & World News

Also, in terms of staying away from crowds, Lebanon is a very different kettle of fish to any of the other ME countries - the (pretty) democratic government generally has a decent amount of consent and it's not likely to experience (or repress) mass protests. The only places to be wary of are one or two of the Palestinian camps (Ain Hilweh is not a nice place, although the camps in Beirut tend to be fine) as well as the security zone in the South (dangerous because of occasional Israeli shelling and cluster bombs).

You won't get into either of these areas without seeking permission from the Army anyway so it's not really a worry, but the south is well worth the trip. Absolutely beautiful mountains and valleys.
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Old 2 Jun 2011
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Originally Posted by ed9489 View Post
...word is that they were identified at the Syrian border as good targets and word was passed to the Palestinian group, who pinched them to be held as some kind of insurance in case there was an international intervention against Syria.
If this was the objective it seems like they could have chosen a more helpful nationality for the hostages?
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Old 3 Jun 2011
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Possibly, on the other hand they are citizens of an EU-member state, but one which lacks the internal pull or external reach to shake things up too much. That way they could be held over the head of the European states without provoking too drastic a response. It is interesting that the ransom videos were uploaded from Damascus.

Bear in mind that what I said is just speculation, based on an unverified Security Force source and a bunch of local politicians with axes to grind.

On the other hand the hash families are pretty ubiquitous in the Bekaa, and there's always feuds going on between families and factions so it's possible they've been caught up in something like that. My initial reaction was that while cycling, they either saw (or pilfered) a hash crop or stumbled across a heroin processing operation. If they are quietly released after the autumn cannabis harvest then that might confirm that.

In any case it's a freak occurrence and should hopefully not stop anyone enjoying that beautiful (and normally, resoundingly safe) area. I'll be heading there in a few weeks to enjoy the summer and am not troubled by the odds of this sort of thing happening in the slightest. It's the first kidnapping of (western) foreigners in decades and given the masses of tourists visiting the area plus the rarity of regular drunken violence probably still leaves it a statistically safer place than most of Europe and the US.
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Old 14 Jul 2011
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good news

BBC News - Seven Estonian hostages freed in Lebanon
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