At least seven Lebanese and Syrian citizens have been kidnapped in northern Lebanon near the border with Syria, the first such reported abductions fuelled by tensions over the uprising in Syria that have spilled into its small neighbour.
Residents said on Monday the abductions started on Saturday when a hardline Sunni Lebanese supporter of the Syrian revolt against President Bashar al-Assad was kidnapped by Lebanese Alawites.
A string of tit-for-tat abductions along sectarian lines followed over the weekend, they said.
The kidnappings reflect rising antagonism in Syria between Sunni Muslims, most of whom support the uprising against Assad, and Alawites who mostly back the president, a fellow member of their minority Shi'ite offshoot.
Lebanon's northern frontier is also home to both sects, whose loyalties often extend over the border.
Growing suspicions and hostilities between northern Lebanon's Sunni majority and Alawite minority have lead to bouts of fighting in the port city of Tripoli. Dozens have been killed and tensions are still high in the area.