Kuwaiti Press Aide Kidnapped; Peace Planners Await Arrival of Syrians
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ The Kuwaiti Embassy’s press attache has been kidnapped, making him the 14th foreigner seized in west Beirut in the last 16 months, police said Saturday.
News of the Thursday abduction came as Moslem leaders held up putting a new Syrian-mediated peace plan into effect until about 35 observers arrive from Damascus, the capital of neighboring Syria.
The observers are mainly army officers and their arrival in Beirut is expected Sunday, said government sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Syrians are the main power brokers in Lebanon since the collapse last year of U.S. peacemaking efforts in the 10-year-old civil war.
The observers will complete the plan to end militia rule in the capital and at the airport, which has been boycotted by the United States following the June 14 hijacking of a TWA jetliner.
The Kuwaiti press attache, Wajed Ahmed Doumani, was kidnapped while going from his home in the seaside Jnah neighborhood to the embassy compound less than a mile away, police said.
They said at least three men stopped Doumani’s American car bearing a numbered diplomatic license plate, pulled him out at gunpoint and ordered the chauffeur to drive on.
Kuwaiti Embassy employees reached by telephone refused comment, referring all inquiries to the Foreign Ministry in Kuwait. The Foreign Ministry has not yet released a statement.
A police official, who requested anonymity, said news of the abduction was withheld at the request of Kuwaiti authorities while attempts were made to locate Doumani, who is in his late 50s.
No one has claimed responsibility.
The Lebanese-born diplomat has served with the Kuwaiti Embassy since 1969.
Thirteen other foreigners, including seven Americans, have been kidnapped in Beirut since March 1984.
Islamic Jihad, or Islamic Holy War, a group believed composed of Shiite Moslem fundamentalists with links to Iran, has claimed it is holding the missing Americans and four Frenchmen. Islamic Jihad has said it will free the captives only after Kuwait releases 17 men arrested for bombing attacks against the U.S. and French embassies and other installations.
The missing Americans are: William Buckley, 56, an embassy political officer; the Rev. Benjamin Weir, 60, a Presbyterian minister; Peter Kilburn, 60, a librarian at the American University of Beirut; the Rev. Martin Lawrence Jenco, 50, a Roman Catholic priest; Terry Anderson, 37, chief Middle East correspondent for The Associated Press; David Jacobsen, 54, director of the American University Hospital; and Thomas Sutherland, 54, acting dean of the department of agriculture at the university.
The kidnapped Frenchmen are: Marcel Fontaine, 45, embassy vice consul; Marcel Carton, 42, embassy protocol officer; Michel Seurat, a researcher; and Jean-Paul Kauffmann, a journalist.
The other foreigners are Alec Collett, 63, a British journalist working for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, and Alfred Yacoubzadeh, an Iranian photographer.
Meanwhile, the newly formed Coordination Committee charged with formulating Beirut’s new security plan met Saturday, but sources close to the conferees said no serious decisions were taken in the absence of the Syrians. The committee includes Moslem militia leaders and politicians.
Prime Minister Rashid Karami called upon ″our Syrian brothers to help us out of our agony and to restore peace and cooperation instead of war in Lebanon.″
Besides seeking peace in Lebanon, Syria vowed to help Lebanon’s government counter an embargo of its only commercial airport sponsored by Washington.
In the TWA hijacking incident which prompted the U.S. action, 39 American passengers and crew were held captive in Beirut for 17 days and one passenger, a U.S. Navy diver, was shot dead. The hijackers were widely reported as belonging to Hezbollah, an extremist organization of Shiite Moslem fundamentalists. The more moderate Shiite Amal militia helped negotiate the release of the Americans.
The United States has insisted it will not lift the blockade until Lebanon enforces security at the airport, now effectively in the hands of Amal and its Druse allies.
The peace plan, as outlined during a Syrian-sponsored Lebanese Islamic conference in Damascus, calls closing all militia offices in west Beirut; redeploying Lebanese army troops along the Green Line dividing Beirut’s Moslem and Christian sectors; and creating a 300 to 400-member elite army unit to help police enforce the law.
Fighting kept up Saturday along the Green Line. One woman was killed and six people were wounded in overnight clashes between Christians and Moslems.
An Amal militiaman was killed and 12 persons wounded in overnight attacks on their offices in west Beirut apparently launched by other Moslem militias.