Shiites Clash with Israeli-backed Militia; Mystery Corpse in North Lebanon
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ Shiite Moslem guerrillas and Israeli-backed militiamen clashed Thursday in south Lebanon, but the two sides gave widely conflicting reports of the fighting.
The Islamic Resistance, an Iranian-backed Shiite group, said its men killed or wounded 18 members of the mostly Christian Israeli-supported South Lebanon Army in an ambush near the Christian mountain town of Jezzine.
In Tel Aviv, an Israeli military source denied the Shiite report and said four militiamen from the South Lebanon Army were wounded in a clash with guerrillas north of the Shiite village of Aaichiyeh.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, appeared to be referring to the same clash as the one reported by the Islamic Resistance, the guerrilla arm of Hezbollah (Party of God).
Aaichiyeh, 8 miles south of Jezzine, is about 7 miles north of the Israeli border and on the edge of Israeli’s self-proclaimed security zone in south Lebanon. The South Lebanon Army and some Israeli troops are deployed in this buffer zone in an effort to keep Shiites and Palestinians from attacking the Israeli border.
In Syrian-north Lebanon, meanwhile, mystery surrounded the discovery of a man’s body. Beirut radio initially said the corpse might be that of a foreign hostage, but police and coroners said the dead man appeared to be Middle Eastern.
No group claimed responsibility for the killing.
The corpse was found in Kobeyat, the hometown of convicted Lebanese terrorist Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, who is serving a life sentence in France for complicity in the 1982 murders of an American diplomat and an Israeli diplomat and in the attempted murder of another U.S. diplomat.
Coroner Ali Shaar, who performed an autopsy, told reporters the burly victim was 6 foot tall, about 40 years old, with a dark complexion and beard.
The man died three or four days ago as a result of multiple fractures of the skull, Shaar said at the government hospital in Tripoli, provincial capital of north Lebanon.
The corpse had several burn scars and was bound with ropes around the neck, abdomen and ankles, Shaar said.
Asked repeatedly whether the victim could be one of 24 foreign hostages missing in Lebanon, Shaar said ″I don’t know. I can’t tell.″
But he said the dark complexion strongly suggested the victim was not a Westerner.
No identification papers were found on the body, police said.
Late in the day, Beirut radio quoted Tripoli hospital director Dr. Sadek Hassan as saying ″there are no indications that the dead man is one of the foreign hostages.″
The 24 foreigners who are still missing after being kidnapped in Lebanon include eight Americans. The others are six Frenchmen, two Britons, two West Germans, an Italian, an Irishman, a South Korean, an Indian and two unidentified foreigners.
Also missing in Lebanon is Anglican Church envoy Terry Waite, who dropped out of sight Jan. 20 after he left his west Beirut hotel to negotiate with hostage-holders.