Demonstrators Urge Death for Higgins; Grenade Injures Six Militiamen
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ Thousands of pro-Iranian demonstrators shouted death slogans Thursday against a kidnapped U.S. Marine officer, and attackers hurled a hand grenade at militiamen searching for the soldier in south Lebanon.
Police said six Amal militiamen and two civilians were injured in the grenade attack.
In a separate incident, Amal militiamen fired at a jeep that didn’t stop at a checkpoint, seriously wounding a Ghanaian peacekeeper, U.N. officials said.
Amal, the mainstream Shiite Moslem militia, is helping in the search for U.S. Marine Lt. Col. William R. Higgins, who was abducted Feb. 17 in south Lebanon.
In Moslem west Beirut, about 10,000 Shiite militants marched in the streets to protest U.S. Secretary of State George P. Shultz’s Middle East tour and call for Higgins’ execution.
″The masses of our nation have spoken today. Let this spy Higgins be executed. Death to Higgins,″ a turbaned protester screamed through a bullhorn.
The crowd roarded after him in unison, ″Death to Higgins 3/8 Death to the Filthy Spy 3/8″
The protesters, brandishing portraits of Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, burned effigies of President Reagan, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Shultz, who was in Jerusalem.
Chanting ″Death to the Great Satan 3/8″ they trampled American and Israeli flags and converged in front of the wreckage of the old U.S. Embassy, which was devastated by a bomb in 1983. Sixty-three people, including 17 Americans, were killed in the attack.
Amal announced it was setting up more checkpoints and speeding up the search for Higgins, 43. The pro-Iranian underground faction Organization of the Oppressed on Earth claimed responsibility for his abduction.
At one Amal checkpoint near the village of Dweir, police said six militiamen and two civilians were hurt when two men hurled a grenade from a speeding car and then escaped.
An Amal statement identified the attackers only as ″suspicious elements.″ At another checkpoint near the village of Teir Debba, U.N. spokesman Timur Goksel said militiamen opened fire at a jeep. He said a Ghanaian soldier attached to the U.N. peacekeeping force in south Lebanon was seriously wounded and was taken by helicopter to a U.N. field hospital.
An Amal spokesman said the patrol fired at the jeep because the driver did not stop at the checkpoint. ″Our men thought the vehicle was stolen. Higgins’ kidnappers could use such a method to smuggle him,″ he said.
Daoud Daoud, Amal’s military commander in south Lebanon who has been personally supervising the search for the Marine, said ″the resort to force to free Higgins is not unlikely once we locate the place where he is being held.″
Daoud said in a radio broadcast that he has ″confirmed information that 25 people specialized in kidnapping have been sent to south Lebanon to abduct more foreigners.″ He did not elaborate.
Higgins is one of 25 foreigners, including nine Americans, missing after being kidnapped in Lebanon. The hostage held longest is Terry Anderson, chief Middle East correspondent for The Associated Press. He was kidnapped March 16, 1985.
The U.N. Relief Works Agency has said that two Scandinavian agency workers abducted Feb. 5 were kidnapped by Palestinians with no political affiliation. But Salah Salah, a Palestine Liberation Organization official in Lebanon, said Thursday the kidnappers were not Palestinians.
He would not disclose who the abductors were.