Israeli Commandos Kidnap pro-Iranian Clergyman from South
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ Israeli commandos kidnapped Sheik Abdul Karim Obeid, Iran’s closest ally in south Lebanon, early Friday and killed a neighbor who rushed to his rescue, Lebanese authorities said.
Police said Obeid, 29, a Shiite Moslem, was kidnapped from his second-floor apartment in the village of Jibchit, 20 miles north of the border with Israel. Israel radio identified Obeid as a leader in the Hezbollah movement, but he had repeatedly denied links with the pro-Iranian extremist group.
A police spokesman said an Israeli helicopter landed the force about two miles west of Jibchit early Friday.
He said 12 commandos walked into Jibchit and ″encircled Sheik Obeid’s three-story building on the eastern edge of the village.″
The spokesman, who cannot be named in line with police rules, said ″someone with the Israelis spoke Arabic. They knocked on the door and someone from the sheik’s family opened.
″The Israelis quickly moved in, pointing silencer-equipped pistols at the sheik, his cousin Ahmed Obeid and Majid Fahs, a friend who was staying with them,″ the spokesman said. He said the commandos tied up the sheik’s wife.
As the Israeli force was leaving the apartment, a neighbor, Hussein Abu Zeid, ″apparently heard some noise and opened his door to find out what was happening. They shot him in the head and he died instantly,″ the spokesman added.
He said it was Abu Zeid’s family that notified the mainstream Shiite Amal militia, in charge of security in Jibchit, of what happened.
Residents of the community of 18,000 people, reached by telephone, said Amal mobilized its militia in the region in an effort to confront the Israeli force and rescue Obeid, but it was too late.
One resident, speaking on condition of anonymity, said local Amal leaders urged ″whoever is capable of carrying weapons to join a campaign in search of Sheik Obeid.″
″I heard the helicopter flying as the general mobilization call was blared through mosque minarets in Jibchit and the neighboring villages,″ the resident said.
The captives were taken to Israel, said Israel radio, quoting Lebanese reports.
Sheik Obeid, widely reputed to be the spiritual guide of Hezbollah in south Lebanon, has been the Jibchit’s imam, or local religious leader, since 1984.
Obeid negotiated the safe withdrawal of Hezbollah gunmen and Iranian Revolutionary Guards from Jibchit when the town was besieged by Amal during a crackdown on the Shiite zealots in 1988.
Hezbollah, or Party of God, seeks an Iranian-style Islamic republic in Lebanon. Activists of the party have carried out suicide bombings against U.S., French and Israeli forces in Lebanon, killing hundreds.
Hezbollah is believed to be the umbrella for extremist Shiite factions who hold most of the 17 foreign hostages in Lebanon, nine of them Americans.