(Adds interior minister's confirmation)
BEIRUT, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Nine Lebanese citizens held in Syria since May 2012 have been released, Lebanese Interior Minister Marwan Charbel told Reuters on Friday.
Eleven Lebanese Shi'ites were seized last year by a Syrian rebel group while on their way home from a pilgrimage to Shi'ite religious sites in Iran, their families said. Two were later released.
"The story is over," Charbel said. "In the next 24 hours, they will be with us (in Lebanon)."
Their return to Lebanon will raise hopes for the release of two Turkish pilots who were abducted in Beirut on August 9 by the families of the nine Lebanese, who accused Turkey of doing too little to win their release.
A Lebanese security source said that a member of the Shi'ite family holding the pilots said the men, who appeared a video this week saying they were in good health, was likely to be released soon.
Doha-based Al Jazeera television earlier on Friday quoted Qatar's Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah as saying that the Lebanese were released after Qatari meditation. (Reporting by Omar Fahmy in Cairo, Oliver Holmes and Laila Bassam in Beirut; editing by Andrew Roche)