URGENT Underground Shiite Group Claims Responsibility For Kidnappings
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ A group of pro-Iranian Shiite Moslem extremists claimed responsibility Sunday for the kidnapping of three American teachers and an Indian professor from a west Beirut college, a radio station reported.
Police meanwhile said two men kidnapped in west Beirut on Friday were not West Germans, as claimed by the purported kidnappers, but Lebanese Armenians.
The Christian-controlled Voice of Lebanon said an anonymous caller claimed responsibility for the abductions of the four professors in the name of a group calling itself the Organization of the Oppressed on Earth.
The station quoted the caller as saying the group kidnapped the four Saturday to prevent the extradition to the United States of a suspected Lebanese terrorist being held in West Germany.
The Voice of Lebanon also quoted the caller as saying the group would kill one of the hostages if its demands were not met. The caller spoke in Arabic with a Lebanese accent, said the station.
The Lebanese man held in West Germany is Mohammed Ali Hamadi, a suspect in the 1985 hijacking of a TWA jetliner to Beirut. The United States has requested that he be extradited to stand trial on air piracy and murder charges.
The Voice of Lebanon which is known for often being inaccurate about Moslem-related affairs said it received the call at 10:30 a.m.
The station had reported Friday that an anonymous caller told it the Organization of the Oppressed on Earth had kidnapped two West Germans that day to force Hamadi’s release.
In later calls, threats were made in the group’s name to kill one of the two hostages by 6 p.m. Saturday if Hamadi was not released, but the deadline passed without any report of a killing.
Police said Sunday the two men kidnapped Friday were not West Germans, but Lebanese Armenians.
Two West Germans were kidnapped in Moslem west Beirut on Jan. 13 and Jan. 16, and West German officials have said the kidnappings apparently were related to the Hamadi case.
Students at Beirut University College said in a statement Sunday they would begin an open-ended strike Monday to protest the kidnappings of the four professors from their campus. About 3,000 students attend the college.
The kidnappers had duped the foreign teachers into assembling in a university office Saturday by claiming to have been assigned to protect them, police and school sources said. The kidnappers then forced the hostages into a jeep and fled.
The abductions coincided with efforts by Anglican Church Envoy Terry Waite to win freedom for American hostages kidnapped in Beirut in 1985.
The Church of England said in London on Sunday that Waite, who dropped out of sight in Beirut last Tuesday, was in ″good hands″ and continuing his secret negotiations.
Saturday’s abductions brought the number of foreigners missing in Lebanon to 23 - eight Americans, six Frenchmen, two Britons, two West Germans, one Irishman, one Italian, one South Korean, one Saudi Arabian and one Indian.
Since Waite arrived on his latest mission Jan. 12, eight foreigners have been kidnapped.