BEIRUT/ABBOUDIEH/ARIDA: Residents of the border towns of Arida and Abboudieh, north Lebanon, blocked the highway connecting Lebanon and Syria Thursday over the cross-border kidnapping by pro-Syrian regime forces of two Lebanese farmers in the region.
President Michel Sleiman called on the Syrian authorities to release the abductees.
The protesters also pitched tents in the middle of the highway along with sand bags to block the road.
The two farmers, identified as Mohammad Yassine al-Merebi and Hamdan Mahdi Mohammad, were working in Abboudieh Wednesday on agricultural land when two Syrians snatched them and whisked them away to Syria.
The reasons for the kidnapping were unclear.
Following news of the abduction, relatives of the two farmers blocked roads in Abboudieh in protest and urged the government to intervene.
Hundreds of trucks and cars have been left stranded in the middle of the highway, though security forces are diverting traffic to ease congestion.
Abboudieh and Arida are the only legal border crossings between Lebanon and Syria in the north and are located around 7 kilometers away from each other.
MP Moeen Merebi joined the protesters in Arida, demanding the release of the kidnapped Lebanese and saying that the protests would escalate if the farmers are not returned.
He also asked the Lebanese Army to protect Lebanese living in border areas.
There have been several cases of kidnapping along the Syria-Lebanon border as well as random shootings resulting in the killing of both Lebanese and Syrians.
According to Sleiman's press office, the president called on the Syrian authorities to release the two Abboudieh residents.
He added that the increase in kidnapping incidents and killings on the border with Syria in recent days is of great concern and rejected.The president also said that an investigation should be carried out by both sides to clear the picture and prevent such violations from recurring in the future.