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Amal Is Holding Downed Israeli, Berri Confirms

October 22, 1986|United Press International

BEIRUT — Nabih Berri, leader of the Shia Muslim militia Amal, confirmed for the first time Tuesday that his followers are holding an Israeli airman whose jet crashed on a bombing mission.

Berri, who also is Lebanon's justice minister, said Israel has made no efforts to swap the airman for Muslim prisoners.

The flier, identified by Israel as a navigator, parachuted into Lebanon moments before his U.S.-made F-4 Phantom fighter-bomber crashed into a Shia-held area last Thursday during an Israeli air strike on Palestinian targets east of the southern port of Sidon. The jet's pilot, who also bailed out, was rescued by an Israeli helicopter.

"The captive pilot is with the Amal movement," Berri said at a news conference at his headquarters in West Beirut. "Before Israel demands us to give it the pilot, it should leave Lebanon and liberate our prisoners in its jails."

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