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B.C. man detained in Syria last year freed after Lebanese mediation

Last Updated Aug 9, 2019 at 11:44 am EST

Kristian Lee Baxter, 44, is seen in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS

A British Columbia man detained in Syria since late last year has been released, Lebanese authorities said Friday.

Kristian Lee Baxter, who has been described by his family as a “world traveller,” thanked the Lebanese government for securing his release in a televised news conference in Beirut.

Local media reported Baxter broke down in tears as he described his eight-month ordeal.

“I thought I would be there forever,” Baxter told reporters. “I would like to thank the Lebanese for helping me get free.”

Lebanon’s general security chief, Abbas Ibrahim, said Lebanese mediation helped secure the Canadian’s freedom.

Baxter, who is from Nanaimo, B.C., was detained in Syria in December after seeking adventure in the war-ravaged country.

Ibrahim said Baxter had been held since last year for “violating Syrian laws” but he didn’t elaborate.

Canada’s ambassador to Lebanon, Emmanuelle Lamoureux, said she was “delighted with today’s outcome,” adding that “we have our Lebanese friends to thank for it,” according to a report from The Daily Star newspaper.

A statement from Global Affairs Canada said the government is “relieved” at Baxter’s release.

“We would also like to express out appreciation to the government of Lebanon for its assistance,” said the statement.

Global Affairs also said consular services will continue to be provided to Baxter and his family.

Baxter’s mother, Andrea Leclair told The Canadian Press last January, that her son messaged her daily because she was worried after he arrived in Syria on Nov. 26, but he went silent after his last message on Dec. 1.

Leclair described her son as “a world traveller and adventurer” and said he visited a village near the border of Lebanon at the invitation of his girlfriend’s brother-in-law.

She said Baxter was supposed to be home Dec. 13 and his travel visa to Syria expired on Dec. 12 or 13.

The government has been warning Canadians to avoid travelling to Syria since 2011 after the outbreak of a civil war that has attracted foreign powers and spawned a multitude of militias, including a new Islamist terror group, while leaving an estimated 500,000 people dead.

Canada severed diplomatic relations with Syria in 2012, expelling its diplomats and shuttering its embassy.

With files from The Associated Press, local media