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Shiite Guerrillas Ambush Israeli-Backed Militiamen

May 7, 1987

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ Shiite Moslem guerrillas said today they killed or wounded 18 Israeli- backed militiamen in an ambush near the southern town of Jezzine.

Police meanwhile said an unidentified body found in a northern town probably was that of a Lebanese man and not a foreigner, as several radio stations earlier reported. But state-run Beirut Radio said authorities were continuing to check on whether the dead man was a foreign hostage.

A spokesman for the Iranian-backed Islamic Resistance said its guerrillas attacked a patrol of the mainly Christian South Lebanon Army militia southeast of Jezzine in Israel’s self-proclaimed ″security zone.″

The patrol was made up of a tank and three armored personnel carriers, a spokesman for the guerrillas told reporters in south Lebanon. The spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said no guerrillas were injured.

There was no independent confirmation of the report from police or other sources.

The Islamic Resistance is the guerrilla arm of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, or Party of God, which is made up of Shiite zealots loyal to Iran’s revolutionary leader, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

The Islamic Resistance lost 19 fighters in an attack against Israeli soldiers and allied South Lebanon Army militiamen in south Lebanon April 18.

Israel established the security zone, a 6- to 12-mile-deep strip inside Lebanon, to guard against guerrilla operations into northern Israel after the Israelis ended their 3-year occupation of Lebanon in 1985.

State-run Beirut Radio today interrupted its regular program to announce that an unidentified body had been found in Kobeyat, 46 miles north of Beirut, and that it was believed to be that of a foreign man.

Coroner Ali Shaar, who performed an autopsy on the body, told reporters the burly victim was six feet tall, about 40 years old, had dark oriental features and a trimmed 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 the northern city of Tripoli.

The corpse carried several burn scars and was tied by ropes around the neck, abdomen and ankles when it was found Wednesday clad only in underwear, Shaar said.

No identification papers were found on the body, police said.

Asked repeatedly whether the victim could be one of the two dozen foreigners believed held hostage 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. Beirut Radio said later today that ″efforts are under way to ascertain whether the victim is a foreign hostage.″

Earlier today, Tripoli-based reporters said a report about the discovery of the body was carried on the Ehden Radio station of Syrian-backed former President Suleiman Franjieh. That report also indicated the man may have been a foreigner.

Twenty-four foreigners are missing and believed held hostage in Lebanon, including eight Americans, six Frenchmen, two Britons, two West Germans, an Italian, an Irishman, a South Korean, an Indian and two unidentified men.

Also missing in Lebanon is Anglican church envoy Terry Waite, who disappeared Jan. 20 after leaving a west Beirut hotel to negotiate with hostage-holders.

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