Kidnapped Estonians plead for help in new video

Seven Estonian tourists were kidnapped in Lebanon two months ago.

Updated: May 21, 2011, 13:06 PM IST

Tallinn: Seven Estonian tourists kidnapped in Lebanon two months ago pleaded for help in a video released Friday, criticising their government for abandoning them and saying they were in "great danger".

"We are very tired and in great danger. We ask our families and all who know us to help us," one of the seven men, Kalev Kaosaar, says in the video, a link to which was published by the Estonian Foreign Ministry.

"We have been imprisoned for 54 days by now and it has been a very hard time for us." He said he was speaking on Monday.

"We ask the Estonian government to help us as the Estonian government has left us and is not willing to help us anymore," he added, surrounded by his six companions.

The men`s physical condition appeared little different from a video released on April 20.

"We got a link to the video by e-mail late Thursday but we do not know yet where the video was uploaded," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Minna-Liina Lind said.

It was purportedly uploaded by a user who marked "Syria" as his location. The link only functioned briefly on Friday.

"The kidnappers have not presented any requests to us via any channel yet," Lind said.

She declined to comment immediately on the claim that the government was failing to help the men.

In a statement, the ministry underlined that Estonia was continuing to work with Lebanon "and other partners" to win their release.

Estonia, a former Soviet-ruled republic of 1.3 million which joined the European Union in 2004, does not have a permanent diplomatic presence in Lebanon.

"The important information is that our citizens are alive and that the tactic of the kidnappers is to keep contact," Foreign Minister Urmas Paet told the Estonian daily Postimees.

The men, all in their 30s, were kidnapped on March 23 shortly after entering Lebanon on a bicycle tour from neighbouring Syria.

The case remains shrouded in mystery with little information gleaned on their whereabouts or those behind the abduction.

Lebanese authorities initially appeared confident that the case would quickly be resolved after recovering a mini-van and car used in the kidnapping and arresting several people.

But the trail appears to have gone cold, with no clear evidence as to who ordered the kidnapping.

Four of those arrested and charged in the case are Sunni Muslim fundamentalists, according to authorities who believe they were hired to execute the abduction but did not mastermind it.

A previously unheard of group, Haraket Al-Nahda Wal-Islah (Movement for Renewal and Reform), has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and demanded an unspecified ransom to free the seven Estonians in two emails sent to a Lebanese website.

The April 20 video showed the Estonians begging Lebanese, Saudi, Jordanian and French leaders to secure their release.

Sources said that while investigators had been unable to track down the origin of the two emails, they determined that the April video was uploaded in the Syrian capital Damascus.

Bureau Report