Estonian hostages freed

  • 2011-07-15
  • Oskars Magone

The hostages appeared in two videos released by the kidnappers.

TALLINN -- The seven Estonian men who were kidnapped while cycling through Lebanon in March have been set free and are back on home soil.

“This is a truly profound and joyous moment – the freed men have come back home to their families and loved ones,” said Foreign Minister Urmas Paet.

The men were reportedly driven deep into the wilderness in Lebanon at 4:00am and given a mobile phone with an Estonia number. They were told to wait until dawn to phone for help.

It marks the end of 113 days of captivity.

Lebanese media speculate that the kidnappers' voluntary release of the hostages was a "gift" to the new Lebanese government, which took office the same day. The new pro-Hezbollah government is expected to receive a huge political boost because of timing of the move.

“We would like to thank the representatives of Lebanon, France, Germany, Turkey, and many other countries for their significant contributions and exceptional co-operation. We also sincerely thank the families and loved ones of the abductees, whose trust and understanding helped to resolve the situation,” Paet said.

The seven men were abducted at gunpoint on March 23 near Zahle, Lebanon's third largest city, shortly after crossing over the border from Syria. Two videos were subsequently released in which they pleaded for help.