Two men suspected of involvement in the kidnapping of seven Estonian cyclists in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley earlier this year were killed in a shootout with security forces on September 20, Lebanese officials said.
News sources in Lebanon showed photos of the bullet-riddled Liberty Jeep where the men, later identified as Mohammad Zarifi and Kinaan Yassin, died in a dawn firefight following an ambush by the country's Internal Security Forces (ISF) in eastern Bekaa.
Two ISF members were wounded in the incident, Reuters reported.
Zarifi, who was from Syria, and Yassin, a Lebanese national, were also suspected of plotting to kidnap other foreigners in Lebanon, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel told local journalists.
The shooting comes against the backdrop of several days of violent activity surrounding the case. The previous Saturday, September 17, two ISF members involved in the hunt for the kidnappers were wounded when their patrol came under fire. A week earlier, another shootout with security forces ended in a kidnapping suspect being wounded and taken into custody.
Wael Abbas, the alleged mastermind behind the kidnapping of the Estonians, is still at large, Lebanon's The Daily Star reported.
The seven tourists, all men aged 30 to 40, were kidnapped on March 23 and released unharmed in the same area on July 14. A previously unknown group called the Movement of Rebirth and Reform was allegedly responsible. After their release, the Estonians said that they had been held in both Lebanon and Syria.
Estonian officials remain tight-lipped on the subject of whether any ransom was paid to secure the men's release.
Lebanese authorities have arrested more than 15 people in connection with the case.