After 114 days in captivity, the freshly released Estonian hostages could be seen in the open air once again, waving to the people of Beirut from the balcony of the French embassy.
In sharp contrast to their appearance in videos taped by their kidnappers during confinement, the seven bearded men were cheerful and took a bow in unison. All seven men are in good health and have been transported to the French Embassy in Beirut.
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said the living conditions of the kidnapping victims had been poor, especially with regard to hygiene, although the men received regular meals. "But the most difficult thing emotionally was the lack of knowledge," said Paet, who had spoken to the Estonians by phone. "They had no idea what the next day, hour or minute would bring."
Paet will travel to Lebanon today. At a government press conference, he said he hopes to have the Estonians back home by tomorrow, July 15. "Indeed, within tomorrow's date they will be reunited with their families and loved ones," said Paet.
Free At Last
In the early hours of July 14, the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that the seven Estonian tourists kidnapped in Lebanon in March had been freed.
The Lebanese news website Naharnet reported that the Estonians were released on the condition that no soldiers or police are present. However, CNN reported that Lebanese army sources said that authorities arrested three people in connection with the kidnapping.
It is not yet clear whether a ransom was paid.
The release allegedly took place in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, the same place where the Estonians were abducted on March 23.
In April, the obscure organization allegedly behind the abduction, the Movement of Rebirth and Reform, demanded a ransom.