Estonians kidnapped in Lebanon beg for help in YouTube video
Seven Estonians kidnapped last month in eastern Lebanon begged Lebanese, Saudi, Jordanian and French leaders to secure their release in a YouTube video authenticated by Estonia Wednesday.
Lebanese website Lebanon Files received a tip Wednesday of the video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIHXHk4c5Gw&feature=player_embedded), uploaded a day earlier by a user named thekidnaper2011.
The video, which was later removed, runs one minute and 47 seconds and shows each of seven men in sportswear, who appeared unharmed, begging for help in English.
"We are turning to you, prime minister of Lebanon Saad al-Hariri, the King of Saudi Arabia King Abdullah, the King of Jordan King Abdullah, the President of France Mr. Sarkozy, please do anything to help us to get back home," said one of the seven.
"Please give what (the kidnappers) have asked ... please make everything to get us back home to our families as soon as possible."
"This is a really difficult situation," said another. "Please do anything, do everything, what it takes to get us home."
"Help us" and "Please help us," said others.
It remains unclear what the demands and conditions for the victims' release are. The seven went missing in the eastern Bekaa Valley after entering Lebanon from Syria on March 23.
YouTube removed the video hours after news of the posting broke, saying "its content violated YouTube's terms of service."
The video appeared online hours after Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet wrapped a brief visit to Lebanon, during which he said there were no new leads on the fate of the cyclists.
On Wednesday, Estonia's foreign ministry confirmed that the seven men seen in the video were indeed the tourists from the Baltic state.
"The men in the video are the seven Estonians kidnapped in Lebanon," spokeswoman Minna-Liina Lind told AFP.
Lind confirmed that the video had also been sent to the ministry on Tuesday night.
"Several institutions are dealing now with the question of finding out from where the video was posted onto the Internet. We do not wish to comment from which email address we got the video," she said.
Paet said on Wednesday: "It appears from the video that all seven abducted Estonian citizens are alive and well. However, it is not known when the clip was recorded."
"The message did not include the conditions of the victims' release, any demands or information on who is behind the abduction," he added.
Eleven Lebanese were charged last week with the kidnapping but no motive for the abduction has been announced.
Authorities have said the Estonians may have been moved across the porous border to Syria.
A previously unheard of group, Haraket Al-Nahda Wal-Islah (Movement for Renewal and Reform), has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and demanded an unspecified ransom to free the seven Estonians.
The claim was made in an email to Lebanon Files but has not been authenticated by security officials.
A police intelligence officer and a main suspect in the kidnapping were killed on April 11 in a shootout in Majdal Anjar, a town near the Syrian border known to harbour Sunni extremist groups and fugitives.
Abductions have been rare in Lebanon since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war during which nearly 100 foreigners, mostly Americans and western Europeans, were kidnapped.
© 2011 AFP