ANKARA, Oct. 19 (Xinhua) -- Two Turkish pilots, who had been kidnapped in Lebanon over two months ago, arrived at an airport in Turkey on Saturday evening, local NTV news channel reported.
The plane that carries the pilots, Murat Akpinar and Murat Agca, landed at Ataturk airport in Istanbul at 23:10 p.m. local time. The pilots were welcomed by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and their families at the airport.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu thanked Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled Al Atiya and Lebanese leaders for their efforts to release the two Turkish pilots.
Syrian rebels kidnapped 11 Lebanese pilgrims in Syria's Aleppo in May 2012 when they returned from a religious trip to the holy sites in Iran. Two of the pilgrims were released shortly after they were kidnapped.
On Aug. 9, 2013, the two Turkish pilots were kidnapped in Beirut. A group named "Zuwar Al Rida," which was previously unheard of, claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and demanded the release of Lebanese pilgrims in exchange for the release of Turkish pilots.
The release of Turkish pilots came simultaneously with the release of nine Lebanese Shiite pilgrims as part of a negotiated hostage deal on Friday evening.
Davutoglu stressed that the two cases were separate processes. The pilots did not receive any ill-treatment while being hostages, the minister said. He thanked both pilots' families for their patience during the negotiation process.