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Islamic Jihad Releases Letter Purporting to Come from U.S. Hostage

September 16, 1986

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ Islamic Jihad today released a letter it claimed was written by American hostage David Jacobsen, accusing President Reagan of caring more about a U.S. newsman arrested in Moscow than for American captives in Lebanon.

The three-page handwritten letter included numerous grammatical errors and misspellings, and read as if it had been translated into English from another language. There was no way to confirm its authenticity, although Jacobsen’s signature appeared identical to that on an earlier letter, and there were similarities between the signature and the writing in the body of the letter.

″Our bodies are sick and our psychological state is bad,″ today’s letter said. ″We also fear the possible ending of our story.″

Jacobsen, the director of the American University Hospital in Beirut, was kidnapped May 28, 1985. The letter, accompanied by a photo of Jacobsen and a statement from Islamic Jihad, was left in an envelope on the doorstep of a Western news agency in Moslem west Beirut.

Islamic Jihad, a Shiite Moslem extremist group believed linked to Iran, claims it holds three of the six Americans missing in Lebanon and that it has killed a fourth.

The letter referred to U.S. News & World Report correspondent Nicholas Daniloff, who was arrested in Moscow on Aug. 30, charged with spying and released Friday into the custody of the U.S. Embassy pending trial. The United States, which negotiated for his release, and Daniloff deny Soviet claims that the reporter was a spy.

Today’s letter misspelled Daniloff’s name and referred to him as a ″spy.″ Numerous other words were misspelled.

Dr. Ahmed Nasrallah, acting head of the American University Hospital, said there was ″a resemblance″ between the handwriting in the letter and that in a note written by Jacobsen before his abduction. But Nasrallah also said there were dissimilarities.

Professor Lutfi Diab, acting president of the American University, said: ″Maybe the guy was under pressure when he wrote the letter. Maybe he was afraid and made some mistakes.″

In Washington, White House spokesman Larry Speakes said administration officials believe the letter apparently was written by Jacobsen but ″there is good reason to question whether it was freely written and represents anything more than the views of Mr. Jacobsen’s captors.″

Eric Jacobsen, the hostage’s son who lives in Huntington Beach, Calif., said he didn’t believe his father would make the kind of mistakes found in the letter, but that his father would likely be ″frustrated″ by U.S. action to free Daniloff from jail while other Americans are still hostages in Lebanon.

The son, who was read parts of the letter over the telephone but had not seen a copy, added: ″The message of the letter is not that surprising and would reflect my father’s opinion, if he’s had access to the press and read that President Reagan is so upset about the Daniloff case.″

Today’s letter said, ″Why was Reagan interested minute by minute with spy journalist Daneloff but he is not interested one minute in our story and he didn’t do anything to solve it. ... Are not we Americans?″

″Why doesn’t the Congress act and request to solve our problem which has been for more than 17 months?″ the letter said.

The snapshot of Jacobsen, 55, wearing beige pajamas, was almost identical to a picture of him released with an Islamic Jihad statement last week.

Islamic Jihad has said statements claiming to be from the organization could be considered authentic if accompanied by a snapshop of one of the hostages.

The letter warned against ″gambling on time″ and asked the Reagan administration to abandon its policy of not negotiating with the kidnappers. It said, ″What are you waiting for? For us to die one by one?″

The Arabic statement accompanying the letter said Washington’s willingness to negotiate Daniloff’s release ″provoked many question marks in the hostages’ minds, comparing what the (U.S.) government did in the ‘Daniloff’ case with what it is doing for them.″

The statement also said Jacobsen wrote the letter ″at his own wish to relay his plea to the people, the government and world public opinion.″

The letter, dated Sept. 15, said Jacobsen, of Huntington Beach, and fellow captives Terry A. Anderson and Thomas Sutherland ″feel homesick″ after their lengthy captivity.

The letter appealed to former hostages the Rev. Lawrence Martin Jenco, Benjamin Weir and Jeremy Levin as well as Anderson’s sister Peggy Say to ″continue their efforts because you are our only hope and you know our suffering very much.″

Weir’s release was announced Sept. 18, 1985; Levin escaped Feb. 13-14, 1985; and Jenco was freed July 26.

Mrs. Say, of Batavia, N.Y., has lobbied heavily in the United States and the Middle East for the hostages’ release.

Jenco’s name was misspelled Jenko. Levin’s name was misspelled Levine.

″We want from you more efforts and don’t lay down. Don’t get trapped by our government and don’t believe their lies and don’t believe their promises,″ the letter said.

Anderson, 38, chief Middle East correspondent of The Associated Press, was kidnapped March 16, 1985, and Sutherland, dean of agriculture at the university, was kidnapped June 9, 1985.

Kidnapped university librarian Peter Kilburn was found slain April 17. Islamic Jihad claimed last October it had killed William Buckley, a U.S. Embassy political officer kidnapped March 16, 1984, but no body was ever produced.

Two Americans were kidnapped last week.

Frank Herbert Reed, 53, the American director of the Lebanese International School, was abducted Sept. 9 in west Beirut. Joseph James Cicippio, 55, acting comptroller at the American University in Beirut, was kidnapped Friday outside his campus apartment building in west Beirut.

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