BEIRUT — Nine Shi’ite pilgrims from Lebanon kidnapped in Syria were freed late Friday night as part of a negotiated hostage deal that could see two Turkish pilots held in Lebanon released, officials said.
The pilgrims were part of a group of 11 hostages taken by a rebel faction in northern Syria in May 2012. Two were later released, but the nine had been held since, causing friction in the region and sparking an August kidnapping in Beirut that saw two Turkish Airlines pilots abducted.
Lebanese Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said that the nine Lebanese hostages ‘‘are now in Turkish territories.’’ Charbel said he expects the two Turkish pilots to be released in Lebanon soon and the Syrian government will release a number of female detainees.
‘‘We insist that those who kidnapped the Turks release them,’’ he said, referring to the pilots. The two pilots appeared in a video on Wednesday, the first time since they were kidnapped.
‘‘This is all part of one deal,’’ Charbel said by telephone.
Asked when he expects the freed Lebanese to get home, he said ‘‘in the coming 24 to 48 hours.’’