BEIRUT — Twenty-four Finnish soldiers were kidnaped today by members of the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army, who threatened to kill "one every hour" until 11 of their men captured by Shia Muslim guerrillas are freed.
But seven hours after the abduction, all the Finns, members of the U.N. peacekeeping force, were still alive, said U.N. spokesman Timur Goksel, who spoke with the captives by radio.
In a separate incident, Austria's ambassador, a U.N. official and two other people were kidnaped today by armed Shia Muslim women, but were quickly released unharmed.
The SLA, a Lebanese militia in southern Lebanon, threatened to execute the Finnish soldiers unless the Shia Muslim militia releases 11 SLA soldiers captured in a predawn raid on their base, U.N. spokesman Francois Giuliani said.
Taken Near Israel Border
Five of the Finns, part of the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, were abducted from a post at Qantarah in Israel's border buffer zone that is manned by the SLA, Goksel said.
Goksel said 19 other Finnish soldiers were kidnaped as they rode in a bus taking them back to their base from furlough in Israel. The SLA gunmen stopped the bus at Adaisseh, 3 1/2 miles southeast of Qantarah, Goksel said.
The SLA accused the Finnish battalion of helping Amal militiamen in the abduction of their 11 soldiers, Goksel said.
"They said they want to kill them (the Finns), one every hour, until all their men are returned. But we don't have their men," Goksel said.
One Finnish officer was released in order to inform the U.N. commander, Irish Gen. William Callaghan, of the SLA conditions, Giuliani said.
At U.N. headquarters, Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar, viewing the incident "with extreme seriousness," asked visiting Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin for help in persuading the militia it supports to release the captives, Giuliani said.
"It is no secret that the Israeli government has some influence over the South Lebanon Army," Giuliani said.
The village of Naqoura is located in an area controlled by the Finnish contingent of the eight-nation, 5,600-man U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon.
In Lebanon Since 1978
The U.N. force has been stationed in Lebanon since 1978, and 103 of its members have been killed in the line of duty. But Giuliani said "this is the first incident of such magnitude" involving the peacekeeping force and the SLA.
Also today, armed Shia Muslim women kidnaped the Austrian ambassador, a senior U.N. official and two other people as they accompanied a convoy carrying food to a besieged Palestinian refugee camp.
U.N. officials said all four were released unharmed.
Near the Borj el Brajne Palestinian camp in southern Beirut, angry "Shia women with guns" seized Austrian Ambassador George Zmidaric, 43; Robert Gallagher, the Canadian director of the U.N. Relief and Works Administration; the U.N. agency's acting administration chief, and a driver, a U.N. spokeswoman in Beirut said.
She said all four were released unharmed by the gun-toting women about two hours later, after Amal leader Nabih Berri intervened.