New wave of kidnappings hits Lebanon: security source

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A wave of tit-for-tat sectarian kidnappings took place in a sensitive area of northeast Lebanon on Sunday, a security official said.

"Unidentified gunmen kidnapped Hussein Kamel Jaafar, aged 37, in the countryside near the town of Arsal," the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"After that, dozens of armed members of his clan went to Arsal from Hermel and Baalbek [eastern Lebanon] and kidnapped several of the town's residents," the source said.

Arsal is a majority Sunni Muslim town whose inhabitants generally support the revolt in neighboring Syria, while most of the population of Hermel and Baalbek are Shiites.

Residents of Arsal said about eight people from their town were kidnapped on Sunday, although the security source could not confirm the figure.

The incident comes seven months after dozens of foreigners, mostly Syrians, were abducted by another Shiite clan, Al-Muqdad.

Lebanon is sharply divided over the war in Syria, which the United Nations says has killed at least 70,000 people since March 2011, and it has seen frequent violence linked to the raging conflict.

The Sunni-led March 14 political movement backs the rebels while the powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah and its allies back the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an Alawite whose faith is an offshoot of ShiiteIslam.

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