Pro-Libyan Group Claims It Kidnapped Americans; Chirac Blasts UNIFIL
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ A pro-Libyan group claimed responsibility in a communique for kidnapping two U.S. citizens in Moslem west Beirut, the second such claim in as many days.
The communique, signed by the Arab Revolutionary Cells-Omar Moukhtar Forces, was published Sunday by the independent Beirut newspaper An-Nahar and the leftist newspaper As-Safir.
Voice of Lebanon, a Christian-controlled radio station, on Saturday quoted an anonymous telephone caller as claiming a previously unknown group called the Khalaya al-Baath (Resurrection Cells) abducted Frank Herbert Reed on Tuesday and Joseph James Cicippio on Friday.
It was not immediately possible to verify either of the claims.
Omar Moukhtar is a Libyan hero who fought Italy’s colonial regime in the 1930s. His name has been used by several groups in claims of responsibility for bombing attacks on British and American targets in Lebanon.
A note signed by the Arab Revolutionary Cells was found near the bodies of a kidnapped American librarian and two British teachers near Beirut on April 18. They had been shot.
It could not be determined whether the group asserting responsibility for last week’s abductions was the same as that which claimed to have killed Peter Kilburn, 61, of San Francisco, and Britons Leigh Douglas, 34, and Philip Padfield, 40.
On Friday, the Voice of Lebanon said Hezbollah, or the Party of God, a fundmentalist Shiite Moslem group, was responsible for Reed’s abduction. It said Reed’s kidnappers smuggled him to Baalbek in the Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley.
Reed, 53, of Malden, Mass., and director of the Lebanese International School in west Beirut, was kidnapped by four gunmen while driving to a suburban golf course.
Cicippio, 56, a native of the Norristown area of Pennsylvania, was seized by four gunmen on the American University of Beirut’s campus in west Beirut. He is the school’s acting comptroller.
Their abductions brought the number of Americans missing in Lebanon to six.
The fundamentalist Islamic Jihad, of Islamic Holy War, says it is holding three American hostages: Terry A. Anderson, 38, chief Middle East correspondent for The Associated Press; David Jacobsen, 55, director of the American University Hospital in Beirut, and Thomas Sutherland, 55, the university’s acting dean of agriculture.
Islamic Jihad said it killed another American hostage, U.S. diplomat William Buckley, but the body was never found.
Meanwhile, French Premier Jacques Chirac said Sunday he was outraged to learn the Finnish general commanding French and other U.N. peacekeeping forces in southern Lebanon went on vacation the day after an attack on the troops killed one French soldier.
″I was astounded and outraged by such conduct,″ Chirac said in a radio interview in Paris. He said it suggested irresponsibility on the part of the commander, Maj. Gen. Gustav Haggland, and his U.N. superiors.
The 1,400 French soldiers in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) are the largest contingent in the 5,800-man unit, created in 1978 to patrol a region in southern Lebanon just north of the Israeli border.
Shiite Moslem Amal militia in south Lebanon arrested two men suspected of detonating the bomb that killed the French UNIFIL soldier, Beirut newspapers reported Sunday, quoting an unidentified Amal official.
Also Sunday, pro-Iranian Shiite guerrillas killed three Israeli-backed militiamen in a pre-dawn attack in the western Bekaa valley.
The Voice of Hope radio station that supports the mainly Christian South Lebanon Army militia, trained and armed by Israel, said seven SLA soldiers were wounded in the assault.
Voice of Hope broadcasts from the northern Israeli border town of Metulla. The Israelis and the 2,000-man SLA occupy a six-mile-deep buffer zone in south Lebanon.
There are 18 foreigners now missing in Lebanon: the six Americans, seven Frenchmen, two Britons, an Italian, an Irishman and a South Korean.