Nine Lebanese truck drivers kidnapped by the Nusra Front on the Syria-Jordan border earlier this month returned home Monday, ending a nearly two-week ordeal.
Around noon Monday, eight Lebanese truckers abducted at the Nassib crossing in southern Syria landed at Beirut airport.
Hours later, the ninth, Hasan Atat, crossed into Lebanon by land from Syria through the eastern Masnaa crossing, a General Security spokesperson told The Daily Star.
Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb, tasked with following up on the matter, welcomed the truckers upon their arrival at the airport.
One of the drivers, Abdel-Rahman Ahmad Houri, explained to the media that the Nusra Front was behind their abduction.
“We had arrived at the crossing when the war began,” he said in reference to the battle for the crossing between the Syrian army and rebels.
“The Jordanians had closed the borders, so we were stuck there and the rebels took over the crossing.”
He said several groups, some factions unidentifiable, entered the crossing after battle, including the Nusra Front which abducted the nine drivers.
After being held and interrogated for around a week in an underground location, the Dar al-Adel (Justice House) court run by the Nusra Front ordered their release, Houri explained. After that, they remained under “the protection of the Free Syrian Army,” he added.
Chehayeb thanked the FSA for ensuring the drivers’ safety, and underlined that no ransoms were paid in return for the drivers’ release.
As for the trucks, they were left at the Nassib crossing because they could not pass into Jordan, the driver said, highlighting that all of the trucks were looted and most were severely damaged.
Later in the day, Houri, from the Zghourta town of Maryata, and two other drivers who had arrived to Beirut’s airport were welcomed back by their families in north Lebanon. The men were identified as Mustafa Abu Arwa and Bader Alwan from the Akkar towns of Jdeidet al-Qoteih and Tal Hayat.
However, 231 drivers are stranded in Jordan and Saudi Arabia after the closure of the Nassib crossing. “The more difficult file remains that of the truck drivers stuck in Jordan and Saudi Arabia,” Chehayeb said.
Sixty truck drivers were stuck at the Jordan’s Jaber crossing, which is opposite the Nassib crossing.
As for the 171 truckers in Saudi Arabia, Chehayeb said Riyadh was assisting Lebanon.
Chehayeb announced that Lebanese nationals living in Saudi Arabia have pledged to help donate 400 riyals daily to help cover the cost of fellow countrymen while they remain stranded abroad.
The Nassib crossing, a vital path for Lebanon’s exports to Jordan and the Gulf, was taken over by Syrian rebels on April 1, one day after Jordan had closed the road on its side of the border and evacuated all civilians from the area. Around 30 Lebanese drivers were stuck at the crossing, but the majority have returned by car through Syria despite the risky security situation.