Report: Estonia Paid $5 Million Ransom to Free 7 Tourists
Estonia has paid a 5 million dollar ransom to win the release of the seven Estonian tourists kidnapped in the Bekaa valley in March, the French publication Intelligence Online has reported.
Citing a source close to Lebanese intelligence, the publication said that the Estonians had been kidnapped by mistake, and that the real goal of the hostage-takers was to nab citizens of a Western country with large interests in the Middle East.
The kidnappers' original intent was to put pressure on Syria, but when they realized their mistake, they decided to switch their tactics to ransom, the source said.
The Estonians were freed on July 14, almost four months since armed men abducted them as they entered the country on a bicycle tour from Syria.
The seven, all men in their 30s and 40s, appeared on the balcony of the French embassy in Beirut, where they smiled and waved at journalists gathered outside before joining hands and taking a bow.
Sources had said that they were released in the Bekaa town of al-Taybi in an operation arranged by French intelligence services.