Kuwait Won't Bend to Terrorists, Diplomats Say With AM-Weir, Bjt
Sep. 20, 1985
KUWAIT (AP) _ The government is unlikely to bend to Moslem fundamentalists who have threatened to execute six American hostages in Lebanon if Kuwait does not release 17 terrorists from its jails, Arab diplomats said Thursday.
The Rev. Benjamin Weir, a hostage who was released Wednesday, said in Washington on Thursday that the Lebanese who held him captive for 16 months were prepared to kill the six hostages and kidnap other Americans if Kuwait does not free the 17 convicted terrorists.
Weir's disclosure came on the eve of the Moslem sabbath, and officials here were unavailable for comment.
A state security court convicted the terrorists in March 1984 of bombing the U.S. and French embassies and four other targets in Kuwait the previous December, killing five people and injuring 86. It sentenced three of the terrorists to hang and the rest to prison terms ranging from five years to life.
''The options are limited, and I don't believe the Kuwaiti leaders can afford to say anything under the circumstances,'' said one Arab ambassador, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
''The Kuwaitis are not likely to respond favorably to the fundamentalists, because that would amount to an encouragement of terrorism,'' he said. ''They also cannot say no to the fundamentalists, because they would jeopardize the lives of the six hostages in Lebanon.
''All the Kuwaiti government can afford now is to say nothing,'' the diplomat said in a telephone interview.
Another Arab diplomat, who also spoke anonymously, said the Lebanese kidnappers were ''merely bluffing.''
''The fundamentalists will simply not dare murder the American hostages,'' he said. ''If they did, things would go utterly badly for them and their Syrian and Iranian backers. Besides, the six hostages are the only leverage the fundamentalists have and without them they would cease to exercise any pressure on Kuwait or any other power.
''For Kuwait, all options are equally bitter and unpracticable,'' he said. ''We always thought that the best option for Kuwait was to hang all convicted terrorists there and then. But now it is too late.''
The diplomats and local journalists noted that last May, Kuwait ignored the terrorists' threats of ''catastrophic consequences'' against the American hostages in Lebanon if the 17 prisoners were not released.
In January 1984, Kuwait's ruler, Sheik Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah, told reporters that unidentified terrorists had threatened to attack Kuwaiti targets if the 17 were not freed. He said Kuwait ''will never submit to terrorist intimidation.''
Jaber was the target of an assassination attempt last May when a driver crashed his bomb-laden car into the royal motorcade, killing the driver and four others.
Terrorists believed to belong to the same Lebanon-based group exploded bombs at two seaside cafes here last July, killing 10 and injuring 86 civilians.
Iran's official radio has repeatedly quoted obscure groups in recent months as threatening more terrorist attacks against Kuwait if any of the 17 were executed. Jaber has said that ''justice will take its course,'' despite the threats.
Iran had disclaimed involvement in the Kuwaiti blasts, but it has lauded the explosions as ''heroic accomplishments against the great devil, America.''
Last December, four hijackers forced a Kuwait Airways jetliner to Iran in a futile attempt to release the 17. They killed two American passengers in Tehran before Iranian authorities arrested the four gunmen.
The 17 terrorists held by Kuwait are:
- Baqer Ibrahim Abdel-Reda, 30, and Hussein Qassem Hassan, 27, both Iraqi Shiite Moslems, and Elias Fuad Saab, 23, a Lebanese Maronite Christian, all sentenced to death.
- Amer Abdel-Zahra Suleiman, 22; Adel Hadi, 27; Nasr Siwan, 30; Jabbar Abbas Jabbar, 22; and Hassan Flieh al-Hamad, 26, all Iraqi Shiites; Hussein Musawi, 28, Lebanese Shiite; and Saad Yassin Abdullah, 21, Kuwaiti Shiite, all sentenced to life imprisonment.
- Abdel-Hussein Aziz Abbas, 28;Ibrahim Sabah, 29; and Yaareb Mehdi, 26, all Iraqi Shiites; and Azzam Khalil Ibrahim, 22, a Lebanese Shiite, all sentenced to 15 years.
-Youssef Majeed Wahib, 21, an Iraqi Shiite, 10 years.
-Abdel-Mohsen Rashash, 20, Iraqi Shiite, and Nasser Mattar Dahash, 25, stateless Shiite, both sentenced to five years.
Three other Iraqi Shiites were tried and sentenced to death in absentia.