BEIRUT (AP) — A Lebanese official says a plane carrying nine freed Lebanese hostages has left Istanbul.
Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil told the Al-Manar television channel of Lebanon's Hezbollah group that the nine released hostages are expected in Beirut by late Saturday night.
The return of the Lebanese Shiite pilgrims is a key part of an ambitious three-way negotiated hostage release deal. Two Turkish pilots kidnapped in Lebanon were freed Saturday and dozens of imprisoned Syrian women are expected to be released as part of the agreement.
Syrian rebels kidnapped the Lebanese Shiite pilgrims a year and a half ago as they travelled through Syria.