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Lebanese citizens released by UAE back home after mediation

February 2, 2021 GMT

BEIRUT (AP) — Eight Lebanese citizens who had been detained in the United Arab Emirates returned home Tuesday after mediation efforts by a Lebanese official led to their release.

Top Lebanese security official Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, who recently traveled to the UAE, said the Gulf country will release 11 Lebanese men. One person arrived back in Lebanon over the weekend and eight arrived Tuesday, while the remaining two are expected later.

It was not immediately clear why the men were detained in the UAE but it comes at a time of rising tension in the Middle East between Iran and the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council. The GCC includes Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.

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The UAE has detained dozens of Lebanese in the past over alleged links to the Iran-backed Hezbollah group that is armed and funded by Iran.

Ibrahim was not immediately available for comment. The former detainees did not speak to journalists after arriving in Beirut.

Fifteen other Lebanese are still being held by the UAE where they are standing trial and they will not be released.

The UAE, like other Gulf Cooperative Council members, considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

The GCC’s designation against Hezbollah brings it in line with the United States, which is closely allied with the Gulf states and has long considered Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization. The European Union only lists the military wing of Hezbollah on its terrorism blacklist.