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U.N. Peacekeepers Hurt in Lebanon

November 23, 1999

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ Three U.N. peacekeepers from France and Ghana were slightly injured in a riot by illegal immigrants after they broke out of custody in South Lebanon, the United Nations said Tuesday.

The soldiers are members of the 4,500-man United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon, or UNIFIL, which observes peace along the Lebanese-Israeli border.

The incident happened Sunday when 69 of the 72 refugees from different countries being held at the Naqoura Port forced their way into the grounds of the UNIFIL headquarters nearby.

The refugees carried banners in English and Arabic calling for U.N. support and passage to Europe, the U.N. Press and Information Office said in a statement.

It said the protesters were intercepted 20 yards inside the grounds. After seven hours of negotiations, UNIFIL officers and a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross persuaded the intruders to withdraw.

Once outside, some became angry and threw rocks and lighted blankets into the headquarters’ grounds, slightly injuring the soldiers _ two French and one Ghanaian, the statement added.

The refugees had been found adrift last month and brought to the port by the Israeli navy after the captain and crew of their ferry abandoned ship somewhere in the Mediterranean.

The refugees came from Iran, Iraq, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Egypt, and claimed to have paid up to $2,000 each seeking passage to undefined European destinations.

They have been kept since Oct. 30 at the Naqoura Port, which is under Israeli control and guarded by the South Lebanon Army, a Lebanese militia allied to Israel.

It was not clear how the refugees broke out of custody in the port. The SLA led them back, apparently without incident.

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