Pilots seized in ambush on airline van

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Gunmen have ambushed a van carrying a Turkish Airlines crew in the Lebanese capital and kidnapped a pilot and a co-pilot.

Six gunmen ambushed the vehicle in Beirut, snatched the men, both Turkish nationals, and let the rest continue on, officials said.

The van was travelling between Beirut airport and a hotel when the ambush took place.

Although there was no claim of responsibility for the ambush or a ransom demand, the incident is likely to be related to the civil war in neighbouring Syria, which has divided the Lebanese. Syrian rebels, who are backed by Turkey, have been holding nine Lebanese Shiites hostage since last year.

The Turkish crew had landed a Turkish Airlines plane with 144 passengers at 3.30am local time .

Lebanon’s state National News Agency reported that the driver of the van was being questioned and that eight gunmen were involved in the abduction.

The Lebanese are deeply divided over Syria’s civil war, with Shiites largely supporting the regime in Damascus and Sunnis backing the rebels.