URGENT Group Claims Collett Is Dead, Releases Video Tape
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ The Revolutionary Organization of Socialist Moslems said Wednesday that it has killed kidnapped British writer Alec Collett. The group released a video tape showing a man dangling from a scaffold that it said was the New York- based writer.
The 4-minute tape was provided to the independent Beirut newspaper An-Nahar along with a typewritten Arabic statement that the 64-year-old Collett was ″executed″ April 16 in retaliation for Britain’s complicity in the U.S. air attack on Libya.
The bodies of two Britons and an American were found last week outside Beirut, and their killers claimed they were slain in retaliation for the air strike and British support for the Americans.
The hanged man, wearing a black eye mask, bore a strong resemblance to Collett’s photographs that were released by the United Nations upon his abduction south of Beirut March 25, 1985.
The jaws, long nose and slightly balding head were strikingly alike. The man’s hands were tied behind him.
But viewers of the tape could not see how many fingers the body had. Collett’s daughter, Suzie Grant, said in London last week that her father had only nine.
Mrs. Grant’s statement that her father had only nine fingers cast doubt on the identity of a body found east of Beirut last week, because the body had 10 fingers. That body was initially identified as Collett’s.
The body was later identified as that of kidnapped American librarian Peter Kilburn. The bodies of two kidnapped Britons, Leigh Douglas and Philip Padfield were found with Kilburn’s last Thursday.
Their killings were claimed by the Arab Revolutionary Cells, a group believed linked to renegade Palestinian leader Abu Nidal. The Reagan administration has charged Libya with harboring Abu Nidal.
The Revolutionary Organization of Socialist Moslems, which also is believed affiliated to Abu Nidal, made a simultaneous claim to An-Nahar last Thursday that it had killed Collett. At the time, it promised to provide photographs of his hanging later.
An-Nahar’s editors said the video tape and statement were found Wednesday inside an envelope dropped by an unknown man at the ground floor reception desk of the newspaper’s nine-story offices.
The first part of the video tape showed an empty noose swaying over green grass and scattered rocks while a man’s voice read the text of the organization’s statement.
When the recital ended, the lifeless body appeared on the screen dangling from a noose as a crowd could be heard - but not seen - chanting ″Allah Akbar″ - God is Great.
The body was dressed in loose blue denims, a red and white checked shirt and a khaki jacket.
The voice of the man who read the statement shouted: ″Down with American and British arrogance. Long live our Arab and Islamic nation.″ The crowd repeated the same slogan twice after him.
Other chants denounced President Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The crowd shouted ″Down with criminal Reagan, down with criminal Thatcher and long live the masses of Arab and Moslem Libya.″
The statement that accompanied the video tape said:
″In retaliation for the monstrous joint American-British raid, and for the scandalous role of the British government in participating in the murder of innocent sons of our Arab and Islamic nation, our Organization announces the execution of the death sentence of British spy Alec Collett in a mass rally.″
It said Collett’s killing was a ″punishment for criminal Thatcher and her Foreign Secretary (Sir Geoffry) Howe, and her backward reactionary regime that transformed her country into an American protectorate.″
The statement urged all other factions holding American or British hostages to ″execute them because the blood of Americans and Britons is now permissible as a result of the criminal acts excercised by murderer Reagan and criminal Thatcher.″
Collett, who was on a writing assignment for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees when he was kidnapped, is the fourth slain British hostage in Lebanon after Douglas, Padfield and Dennis Hill.
Hill, an English language teacher with the American University of Beirut, was found shot dead two days after he disappeared in west Beirut May 27, 1985.
The only American hostage proven killed in Lebanon was Kilbrun, 62, of San Francisco, Calif., a librarian with the American University of Beirut who disappeared Dec. 3, 1984.
His body was found off a tree-lined mountain highway east of Beirut along with the corpses of Douglas, 34, of Stalham, Norfolk, and Padfield, 40, of Bideford, Devon. All three were shot to death.
Islamic Jihad, or Islamic Holy War, a terrorist group which is believed to be made up of Shiite Moslem zealots loyal to Iran, has claimed it kidnapped five other Americans in the last two years.
They are: Associated Press chief Middle east correspondent Terry A. Anderson, the Rev. Lawrence Jenco, American University Hospital director David Jacobsen, American University of Beirut acting dean of agriculture Thomas Sutherland and U.S. Embassy political officer William Buckley.
Islamic Jihad claimed last Oct. 4 that it had killed Buckley. U.S. and Lebanese authorities doubted the claim because no corpse was found.