RPT-UPDATE 1-Lebanon detains Australian TV crew over child custody row

(Repeats story published late Thursday; no changes to text)

BEIRUT, April 7 (Reuters) - Lebanese police have detained an Australian film crew and accused them of involvement in a kidnapping of two children from their Lebanese father on behalf of their Australian mother.

“Four Australian nationals have been stopped on suspicion of kidnapping the two children,” the Lebanese internal security services said on their Twitter account.

CCTV footage broadcast on Lebanese TV appeared to show the two children, who the father said were aged five and three, being bundled into a car by several attackers on a busy street in southern Beirut. The children’s grandmother told media she had been hit on the head with a pistol during the abduction.

The father, Ali Zeid al-Amin, said by phone that he was scared for the children’s safety but that they were with their mother. “It’s their mum that kidnapped them, and that’s what we know. She contacted me and told me she has the kids,” he said.

A Lebanese security source said the mother and two children had been found and were with the authorities.

The four-member crew was making a film about the mother’s efforts to recover her children for the Australian current affairs show “60 Minutes”. The incident took place in the Hadath area of southern Beirut at 7.10am on Wednesday.

Lebanon, unlike Australia, is not a signatory of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which allows for children normally resident in one location to be returned if taken by a relative.

Lebanese Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk was quoted on Thursday as saying the crew were “involved in abducting the two children and detained in respect of their participation in the kidnapping operation”.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been in contact with Channel 9 over reports of the crew’s detention, a spokesman of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said.

“A crew has been detained. Our people are working with the authorities to have them released as soon as possible,” a spokesman for Channel 9 said.

“We are urgently seeking to confirm the crew’s whereabouts and welfare, and have offered all appropriate consular assistance,” he said. (Reporting by Lisa Barrington and John Davison; Additional reporting by Melanie Burton in Melbourne and Angus McDowall in Beirut; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)