Terrorists Freed After Serving Sentence for Bombing U.S. Embassy
KUWAIT (AP) _ Two of 17 pro-Iranian terrorists whose freedom is a key demand of a group holding American hostages in Lebanon have been released from prison after serving five-year terms, the interior minister said Saturday.
The 17 were convicted in 1984 of bombing the French and American embassies and given sentences ranging from five years to death. The Islamic Jihad, which holds two American hostages, has demanded freedom for all 17. Kuwait has refused.
Interior Minister Sheik Salem al-Sabah said the two freed men, Abdul-Mohsen Rashash Abbas, 25, an Iraqi, and 30-year-old Nasser Matar Dahash, whose family lives in Kuwait without official citizenship, were released ″a while ago, having completed their prison terms.″
The two are not considered key figures in the long-running hostage drama. Salem did not say what date they were freed or where they are now.
But Kuwait’s information minister, Sheik Jaber Mubarak, told The Associated Press in December the pair would be freed after they finished their sentences and would be deported to the country of their choice.
Salem stressed to reporters the release ″has nothing to do with the demands of extremist organizations.″
Despite recent speculation that some of the 15 hostages, who include nine Americans, might soon be freed, informed Arab sources said there was no sign any were about to be released. Most of the Lebanese captives are held by Shiite extremists.
Islamic Jihad, believed made up of Shiite Moslem extremists loyal to Iran, kidnapped Terry Anderson of Lorain, Ohio, on March 16, 1985, and Thomas Sutherland, 57, of Fort Collins, Colo. on June 9 the same year. The group has released four other Americans.
Anderson, chief Middle East correspondent for The Associated Press, is the longest-held of the hostages in Lebanon.
In Washington, the State Department said it had no comment on the terrorists’ release.
The 17 bombers - Kuwaitis, Iraqis and Lebanese - were arrested and tried after the December 1983 bombings of the U.S. and French embassies and Kuwaiti government installations.
Three were sentenced to death but have not been executed, and 12 were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 10 years to life.
The two released were handed the shortest sentences and are not believed central to Islamic Jihad’s demand for the release of the 17.
Among the bombers sentenced to death is Mustapha Youssef Badreddin, a cousin and brother-in-law of Imad Mugniyeh, said to be the leader of Islamic Jihad. He was convicted under the alias of Elias Fuad Saab.
One of those serving life is Hassan Youssef Musawi, a cousin of Hussein Musawi, leader of another Iranian-linked Shiite faction in Lebanon.
Since their 1984 trial, extremists have hijacked two Kuwait airliners to press for the release of their comrades. Kuwait has refused to negotiate.
In December 1984, a Kuwait Airways plane was seized on a flight from Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, to Karachi, Pakistan, and was flown to Tehran. The hijackers killed two American passengers and vanished after Iranian security men stormed the plane to end the six-day ordeal.
A Kuwaiti Boeing 747 was hijacked April 5, 1988 on a Bangkok-Kuwait flight. It was flown first to Iran, then to Larnaca, Cyprus, where the hijackers killed two Kuwaiti hostages.
The plane was later flown to Algiers, Algeria, where the 16-day saga ended with the hijackers freeing the hostages and the plane, apparently in return for safe conduct out of the country.
Mugniyeh, wanted by U.S. authorities as one of four Lebanese Shiites who hijacked a TWA jet in June 1985 and killed an American serviceman, is believed to have masterminded last year’s Kuwait Airways hijacking.
Iran had accused Kuwait of aiding Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war.
Kuwaiti officials blamed Iran for the 1983 bombings and other acts of sabotage in Kuwait. Relations with Tehran began improving last year after a U.N.-sponsored cease-fire between Iran and Iraq.