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Kidnapped Briton and Syrian Freed After Five Days

March 9, 1988

SIDON, Lebanon (AP) _ The Abu Nidal Palestinian terrorist group freed a British relief agency official and his Syrian aide Tuesday, five days after seizing them in this southern port city.

Peter Coleridge, 44, Middle East coordinator of the British relief agency Oxfam, and Omar Traboulsi, 31, appeared physically fit when members of Abu Nidal’s Fatah-Revolutionary Council drove them to the Sidon apartment of Mustafa Saad, a Sunni Moslem leader.

″We thank you for your hospitality,″ Coleridge said in Arabic when they reached the apartment on the second floor.

Abu Nidal’s guerrillas seized them Thursday while Coleridge was taking pictures of the Ein el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp.

Coleridge told reporters Tuesday: ″I am a guest in Lebanon. I should have realized that shooting pictures at Ein el-Hilweh is a big mistake.

″I made a mistake by not asking for a permission from the authority in Ein el-Hilweh. I know and respect the people who took us. There has been no kidnapping ... They were only applying security procedures.″

″We were well treated,″ he added.

Traboulsi sat next to Coleridge and did not speak. Coleridge said he ″will leave Lebanon,″ but would not disclose his travel plans.

Coleridge told BBC Radio’s ″PM″ program he and Traboulsi had been interrogated, blindfolded, handcuffed and put into the trunks of two cars.

On Tuesday, Mustafa Saad identified the men involved as being from Abu Nidal.

Coleridge said they were driven to an isolated place about half an hour from Sidon and held there for the rest of their captivity.

Oxfam gave news of Coleridge’s release to his wife, Angela, at their home in Headington, England. The couple have three children - Jessie, 12, Sara, 11, and Edward, 5.

Mrs Coleridge said she and the children were ″overwhelmed and absolutely delighted.″ She added, ″All I feel like doing now is sitting down and having a nice, quiet cup of tea.″

Coleridge said he heard no news of any other hostages, including Anglican envoy Terry Waite, during his captivity. Waite disappeared in Beirut in January 1987. No one has claimed responsibility.

The release leaves leaves 22 foreigners still missing in Lebanon, including nine Americans. Held longest is Terry A. Anderson, chief Middle East correspondent of The Associated Press, who was kidnapped March 16, 1985.

Coleridge and Traboulsi had gone to Sidon last week to inspect relief groups supported by Oxfam. It was the British official’s first visit to Lebanon in three years.

Coleridge said his camera and Opel station wagon were returned, but a security source said the Palestinians ″confiscated the film Coleridge was shooting.″

Abu Nidal, whose real name is Sabry al-Banna, broke with Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization in the early 1970s and founded the Fatah- Revolutionary Council.

His followers have been blamed for scores of terrorist acts, including the December 1985 assaults at the Rome and Vienna airports in which 20 people died.

Coleridge and Traboulsi were accompanied to Saad’s apartment by Fatah- Revolutionary Council spokesman Walid Khaled.

He said the men ″were held for questioning as a precautionary measure after shooting pictures in military zones.″

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