Swiss Woman Reported Abducted In Lebanon
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ Armed civilians kidnapped a Swiss flight attendant in northern Lebanon early this week and freed her today, security sources said. Police here could not confirm the abduction.
In Bern, Switzerland on Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Clemens Birrer said the woman, whom he refused to identify, was kidnapped by gunmen in northern Lebanon on Sunday.
A reliable Lebanon security source, speaking on condition of anonymity, identified the woman as Astrid Fischer, 31, and said she was was released in Tripoli this afternoon.
The source said gunmen kidnapped Ms. Fischer from a house in the village of Koubbaa, 31 miles north of Beirut, on Sunday. Birrer had said the kidnapping occurred in Tripoli, which is 50 miles north of Beirut.
The source refused to identify the kidnappers but said the woman, a flight attendant with Swissair, was ″interrogated in connection with her activities and stay in Lebanon.″
He refused to elaborate.
The abduction would be the third of a Swiss national in Lebanon in a week. The two previous kidnappings were linked to the case of a Shiite Moslem militant serving a life sentence in Switzerland for hijacking a jet.
When asked about the latest reported kidnapping, Tripoli police chief Col. Nabil Zein said today: ″I have no information at all about this kidnapping. We have neither a notification nor a complaint about such a kidnapping.″
″I read the report from Bern in the papers this morning,″ he told The Associated Press when contacted by telephone.
Birrer said the woman’s parents asked authorities not to publicize the case. He told reporters of the kidnapping after being asked about unattributed news reports of it.
″There is no sign of a political background to this kidnapping,″ he added.
Switzerland asked Syria, which controls much of northern Lebanon, to help find the woman, he said.
In all, 19 Westerners are missing in Lebanon, including eight Americans. The longest held is Terry Anderson, chief Middle East correspondent for The Associated Press, who was kidnapped March 16, 1985.
Shiite Moslems loyal to Iran are thought to be holding most of the hostages.
On Oct. 6, two Swiss Red Cross workers, Elio Erriquez and Emmanual Christen, were abducted in southern Lebanon. No group claimed responsibility for the kidnappings, and no demands have been made.
Later that day, a PLO spokesman blamed radical Palestinian guerrillas led by terrorist mastermind Abu Nidal for those abductions and linked them to a Shiite Moslem militant, Mohammed Hariri. He is serving a life sentence in Switzerland for hijacking an Air Afrique jetliner in 1987 and killing a French passenger.
Lebanese police also blamed Abu Nidal’s group for the Oct. 6 abductions. The Abu Nidal organization denied involvement.
Birrer said he did not believe there was any connection between the kidnappings Oct. 6 and that reported Thursday.
All Swiss Red Cross personnel were withdrawn from Lebanon following the kidnapping in November of Peter Winkler, a relief worker in Sidon. Winkler was released a month later, and the Swiss contingent returned after receiving assurances from all sides in Lebanon that humanitarian workers would not be targeted for kidnappings.