Gunmen Kidnap U.S. Journalist, Defense Minister’s Son
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ Fourteen kidnappers grabbed American journalist Charles Glass, beat him and stuffed him into a car trunk, then abducted the son of Lebanon’s defense minister when he told them to stop, police said Thursday.
Police said the gunmen in four cars intercepted Glass and Ali Osseiran in Osseiran’s chauffeur-driven white Volvo on Wednesday in Ouzai, a suburb of Syrian-policed Moslem west Beirut.
The gunmen, most of them bearded, dragged Glass out of the car, hit him with rifle butts and bundled him into the trunk of a silver Toyota near a fish restaurant only 350 yards from a Syrian army checkpoint, police said.
Ali Osseiran, 40-year-old son of Lebanese Defense Minister Adel Osseiran, shouted at the gunmen to stop, police reported. But the kidnappers grabbed him and his Lebanese chauffeur, a police officer who doubles as bodyguard.
Glass, 36, of Los Angeles became one of nine Americans kidnapped in Lebanon.
He was also the first foreigner kidnapped since Syria moved 7,500 troops into Moslem west Beirut Feb. 22 to quell fighting among militias.
No group claimed responsibility. The Iranian-backed Shiite Moslem Hezbollah, or Party of God, has a base a few yards from the restaurant.
Hezbollah is believed to be an umbrella for several small underground factions that have claimed responsibility for many of the abductions in the past two years. Besides Glass, 24 foreigners are missing after being abducted in Lebanon.
Glass, who has worked for the ABC television network, was in Beirut researching a book he is writing on the Middle East. In Washington, ABC spokeswoman Elise Adde said Glass was on a leave of absence as a full-time ABC correspondent ″but we have retained his services on a free-lance basis.″
He was kidnapped while driving back into Beirut after visiting the Osseirans, a prominent Shiite family, at their house in Sidon, 25 miles south of the capital.
″It looks like the kidnappers wanted to grab Glass alone. But Osseiran’s angry protests forced their hand and he was also taken by the gunmen along with his driver, a Lebanese riot policeman,″ said a police spokesman who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The state-run National Information Agency quoted unidentified sources in the defense minister’s household as saying Ali Osseiran ″insisted on being taken with Glass.″
In Washington, the State Department issued a statement condemning the kidnapping as ″another terrorist attempt to manipulate the United States through our concern for our citizens.″
″We will not yield to terrorist blackmail,″ the statement said.
The abduction was a serious blow to Syria’s effort to restore order to west Beirut, which had erupted into anarchy after militias wrested control of the Moslem sector from the Lebanese army in February 1984.
Glass was noted for his coverage of the 1985 TWA hijacking, during which he had a ground-to-cockpit interview with the jetliner’s captain, John Testrake. A bearded gunman pointing a gun to Testrake’s head appeared in the film several times.
Police declined to comment on speculation Glass was grabbed so he would not testify at an eventual trial of Mohammed Ali Hamadi, a Lebanese Shiite who was arrested in Frankfurt this year in connection with the hijacking.
The West German national ZDF television network said Lebanese security officials believe the kidnapping was connected to the Hamadi case, but it did not cite sources. Government officials in Bonn played down speculation about a link.
West Germany is considering a U.S. request for the 22-year-old suspect’s extradition.
The elder Osseiran had a series of meetings with prominent Syrian officials and Lebanese religious leaders in an effort to free Glass and his son.
He contacted Sheik Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, Hezbollah’s spiritual guide, and Syrian Vice President Abdul-Halim Khaddam. They both promised to help find the men.
Fadlallah has made several futile public declarations in the last two years calling for the release of the foreign hostages and Anglican Church envoy Terry Waite, who disappeared in January while trying to negotiate the release of the American hostages.
Syria has had about 25,000 soldiers controlling north and east Lebanon since 1976 in addition to the force in west Beirut.
The elder Osseiran had lunch with Glass at the American University of Beirut’s Alumni Club on Tuesday, Glass’ friends said.
Earlier Tuesday, Glass came to The Associated Press office in Beirut but would not discuss his plans or say where he was saying.
That night he had dinner with friends at the Tokyo, a Japanese restaurant in west Beirut, and left for Sidon the following morning.
Glass has made other trips to west Beirut recently despite a U.S. ban on travel to Lebanon by American citizens.
On previous trips, he stayed with business tycoon Hani Salam, a Sunni Moslem presidential adviser.
Glass lives in London with his wife Fiona and five children.
Mrs. Glass told the AP in London that her husband has been in the area ″getting material for a book that he’s been writing on the Arab world.″
She said her husband is ″of Arab extraction and he’s always been very interested in the region.″
Phyllis Oakley, a State Department spokeswoman, said that if Glass was traveling on a U.S. passport he apparently was in technical violation of rules imposed last February to keep Americans out of Lebanon.
Journalists were given more leeway, but they had to apply for an exception. Mrs. Oakley said Glass had not sought the necessary permission.
Roone Arledge, president of ABC News, said Glass was ″an extraordinary reporter and a valued colleague of all of us at ABC News.″
Glass is the second American journalist now held hostage after being kidnapped in Lebanon. Terry A. Anderson, chief Middle East correspondent for The Associated Press, was abducted from a west Beirut street on March 16, 1985. He has been held longer than any other hostage.
Before Thursday, the last abduction of foreigners in Beirut was Jan. 24, when gunmen disguised as security police kidnapped American educators Robert Polhill, Alann Steen and Jesse Jonathan Turner and Indian professor Mithileshwar Singh from the U.S.-affiliated Beirut University College.
The other American hostages are Thomas Sutherland, acting dean of agriculture at the American University of Beirut; Joseph James Cicippio, acting comptroller at the university; Frank Herbert Reed, the American director of the Lebanese International School; and Edward Austin Tracy, a writer.
In addition to the Americans and the Indian, the kidnapped foreigners include six Frenchmen, two West Germans, two Britons, an Irishman, an Italian, and a South Korean. Two other foreigners, whose nationalities are not known, also were abducted.