July 18, 2015 / 3:47 PM / 3 years ago

Five Czechs, driver missing in Lebanon: Czech foreign ministry

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Five Czechs and their Lebanese driver are missing in Lebanon, a spokeswoman for the Czech foreign ministry said on Saturday.

Lebanese media and a security source had reported earlier on Saturday that five Czech nationals had gone missing when their abandoned vehicle was found near Kefraya in eastern Lebanon, a popular destination for tourists in the wine-producing area.

Passports, money and cameras were found inside the Lebanon-registered vehicle in the West Bekaa region and security services launched an investigation. Kefraya lies east of the capital Beirut and west of the country’s border with Syria.

The Czech foreign ministry knows the identities of the missing Czechs, but it would not publish that information in order not to jeopardize the investigation, Michaela Lagronova of the ministry told reporters.

She added that Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek will be in telephone contact with his Lebanese counterpart later on Saturday. Some Lebanese media speculated that the incident could be related to the imprisonment of a Lebanese national in the Czech Republic. Reuters was not able to confirm this.

It is not the first time foreigners have gone missing in eastern Lebanon. Seven Estonians riding bicycles in the Bekaa Valley were kidnapped by masked gunmen in 2011 and released after four months.

Earlier that year two Polish tourists were briefly captured in the Bekaa Valley but freed after security forces opened fire on their captors at a checkpoint.

Reporting by Robert Muller in Prague and Sylvia Westall in Beirut; editing by Ralph Boulton and Digby Lidstone

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