Turkey closes Beirut offices after kidnap of its two pilots

Turkey has closed its cultural centre and commercial office in Beirut after the kidnap of two Turkish Airlines pilots, Ankara’s ambassador to Lebanon said on Monday.

The two pilots were kidnapped on Friday by a group demanding Turkey use its influence with Syria’s rebels, who it backs, to secure the release of nine Lebanese Shiites kidnapped in Syria in May 2012.

“As a safety measure, the Turkish cultural centre and commercial office in Beirut have suspended their activities,” ambassador Inan Ozyildiz said.

He also said “Turkish Airlines’ offices have been operating from Beirut International Airport” instead of at their downtown Beirut facility.

After the kidnapping on Friday, Turkey’s foreign ministry urged citizens to avoid travel to Lebanon and to leave the country if they were already there.

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