BEIRUT — Eight French hostages held by Muslim groups in Lebanon will be released during the next nine days, a leftist Beirut newspaper reported Saturday.
The newspaper, As Safir, quoted unidentified sources as saying four Frenchmen will be released within two days and "the remaining four will be freed within a week afterward."
Nine Frenchmen are missing in Lebanon. The report did not specify which eight would be released.
Islamic Holy War, a Shia Muslim group believed to be loyal to Iran's Islamic fundamentalist regime, has claimed responsibility for kidnaping four Frenchmen--two diplomatic figures, a journalist and researcher Michel Seurat. The group later said it killed Seurat, but his body was never found.
Four members of a television crew were seized in Muslim West Beirut on March 8, and a group calling itself the "Revolutionary Justice Organization" has claimed responsibility.
No group has claimed responsibility for abducting the ninth Frenchman, an 85-year-old retired car dealer.
As Safir, which is close to Libya and to Syria, the dominant foreign power in Lebanon, said its sources obtained their information from "parties connected with the French hostages case."
In Damascus, Syrian sources reported the arrival of a high-ranking, unidentified French envoy whose mission was believed to deal with the hostages.
Relatives of the four employees of the television station Antenne 2 have received letters and color snapshots. The photographs show the four men, unshaven, reading a newspaper dated May 14.
A total of 21 foreigners are thought to be held hostage in Lebanon.
In East Beirut, meanwhile, an explosion tore through the second floor of an apartment building, wounding two people, police said. It was the second bombing in the Lebanese capital's Christian sector in as many days.