Foreign Ministry in dark about whereabouts of missing Czechs

Lubomír Zaorálek, photo: CTK

Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek told journalists on Tuesday after a meeting of the country’s Crisis Committee, that the government had been contacted by no one and currently had no information about the whereabouts of five Czechs who went missing in Lebanon. At a press briefing, he said that officials were working with the theory the men had been abducted but that that was not the only lead being examined.

Lubomír Zaorálek,  photo: CTK
There has been considerable speculation, as well everything short of official confirmation in both the Czech and Lebanese press about the identities of five Czechs missing now for several days in Lebanon. All the same, on Tuesday the Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek himself refused to acknowledge any details, for fear the release of information will put them at risk. Several years ago the ministry called an information embargo on the case of two Czech women who were abducted in Pakistan, whose videos later released showed them pleading for freedom and for their country to act.

In the case of the five missing now, the same Czech media have revealed first names or the men’s jobs, or picked up images from the Lebanese press, specifically the Lebanese The Daily Star, which allegedly published passport photos of the missing five. Despite a good deal of information already being “out there”, Foreign Minister Zaorálek was adamant on Tuesday the ministry or government would not take this path.

“All I can tell you about the five is that we have not been contacted by anyone and we do not have information about their movement or where they might be now. We know that there is a search operation underway in Lebanon and we are in contact with our partners there. Even now, though, I cannot confirm with certainty that there was an abduction or that the men are still even in the country, as it could threaten their safety.”

Photo: Czech Television
There has been considerable speculation about why the five travelled to Lebanon, with much attention being paid to the driver who took them around – allegedly the brother of a terrorism suspect detained in the Czech Republic and facing possible extradition to the United States. His whereabouts, too, is unknown. Chilling are reports that the personal belongings of the missing Czechs were found in a taxi near the border with Syria.

Given the latest development, Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek warned fellow Czechs not to take travel to danger zones at all lightly.

“In the summer many people travel abroad but the world has changed. There is no question it is more dangerous and riskier than ever… Anyone who travels abroad to problem areas should consider their trip carefully... To think that we are somehow not at risk is an illusion. Today, the situation is dangerous and complicated even for our citizens.”

The government’s Crisis Committee is due to meet again this Friday.