Two children at the centre of a dramatic botched attempt to return them to their Australian mother were put in danger during the operation, their Lebanese father says.
Ali el Amien has been reunited with his children, but their mother Sally Faulkner has been detained by local police for allegedly kidnapping them on a Beirut street as they waited with their grandmother at a bus stop.
Ms Faulkner, from Brisbane, claims her ex-husband refused to bring them back to Australia after taking them on holiday to Beirut.
A Nine Network TV crew reporting on the children’s recovery by a professional international agency is also behind bars.
‘I was surprised anyone could endanger the children like that,’ Mr el Amien told the ABC.
‘What if someone armed passed by and saw the scene and started to fire?
‘We are in Lebanon here. If they started to shoot, they could have hit one of the children.’
Security camera footage appears to show the children, aged three and five, being bundled into a car by several people on a busy street in southern Beirut.
The children’s grandmother claims she was hit on the head with a pistol during the incident.
Lebanese authorities said the children were to be smuggled out of the country by boat before police intercepted them.
The 60 Minutes crew, including journalist Tara Brown, a producer and a cameraman, are in good health and are receiving assistance from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Ms Faulkner has long hoped to get her children back to Australia and in October last year set up a petition calling on Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to do more to help.
But it is believed her predicament has worsened significantly having attempted to allegedly kidnap the children.
‘She’s going to be very lucky if they don’t charge and jail her,’ Child Recovery Australia spokesman Col Chapman told AAP.
‘Lebanon doesn’t want a bunch of mercenaries coming into their country conducting these sorts of operations.
Child Recovery Australia, which was enlisted to help Australian actress Eliza Szonert get her son back in Malaysia last year, was not hired to recover Ms Faulkner’s children but claims to have been advising her for around 10 months before the incident in Lebanon.
Mr Chapman was highly critical of the Beirut operation conducted by the international agency, describing it as amateurish and doomed to fail.
‘What on earth were they thinking?,’ said Mr Chapman.
‘No professional recovery agency would do a recovery in a public street in Lebanon with witnesses, with CCTV cameras.’