YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

2 More Germans May Be Beirut Kidnap Victims

January 24, 1987|WILLIAM TUOHY | Times Staff Writer

BONN — Two more West Germans were reported to have been abducted in Beirut on Friday, further complicating the pre-election dilemma faced by the West German government over its arrest of a suspected hijacker-murderer.

Witnesses in Beirut said two blond-haired men, believed to be Germans, were seized by gunmen on a street in West Beirut and bundled into a car.

The Christian-owned Voice of Lebanon radio station said a telephone caller claimed responsibility for the two abductions in the name of the Organization of the Oppressed on Earth and said the victims were Germans.

Execution Threatened

The broadcast quoted the caller as saying one of the victims would be "executed" at noon today if West Germany did not free accused hijacker Mohammed Ali Hamadi.

Two other West Germans--businessman Rudolf Cordes, 53, and engineer Alfred Schmidt, 47--are missing in the Lebanese capital, and the Bonn government has received a message from a group claiming to be holding Cordes.

There was doubt, however, as to the nationalities of the two latest victims. Here in Bonn, Foreign Ministry spokesman Klaus Ringwald said "no more Germans" were missing in Lebanon other than Cordes and Schmidt.

Telephoned Claims Denied

In the past, kidnaping claims telephoned to the Voice of Lebanon have been denied by the groups in whose names they were made. The Organization of the Oppressed on Earth, thought to be a pro-Iranian Shia Muslim group, has claimed responsibility for the kidnapings and killings of four Jewish residents of West Beirut.

West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, winding up his national political campaign, told a news conference here Friday that he could not confirm the two latest reported kidnapings.

Kohl said his only information on the matter was based on news reports from Beirut, and he added that his government would not comment on efforts being made to contact the two men who disappeared earlier.

Tied to TWA Hijacking

The kidnaping of Cordes and the apparent kidnaping of Schmidt were both believed to be in retaliation for the arrest of the 22-year-old Hamadi by West German police. Hamadi, a Lebanese national, was seized Jan. 13 at the Frankfurt airport with explosives in his possession. A subsequent fingerprint check identified him as one of the men wanted by the U.S. government as suspects in the hijacking of a Trans World Airlines jet, which was diverted from Athens to Beirut in June, 1985.

Washington has asked for the extradition of Hamadi to stand trial on charges of air piracy and murder. A U.S. Navy diver, Robert Dean Stethem, was killed by the hijackers during the passengers' 16-day ordeal.

Last Saturday, Cordes, who represented the chemical company Hoechst in the Middle East, was seized by gunmen outside his hotel in West Beirut. His kidnapers have told the Bonn government in writing that they want Hamadi freed. West German security sources say Cordes is being held by Hezbollah, one of the most militant Shia Muslim groups and the organization believed responsible for the hijacking of the TWA jet.

Western intelligence analysts have said Hezbollah is intertwined with Islamic Jihad (Islamic Holy War), which is believed to hold some of the other foreigners kidnaped in Lebanon, including two Americans.

No Claim of Responsibility

The second West German, Schmidt, an engineer with the Siemens electronics firm, disappeared from his West Beirut hotel last Tuesday. Bonn authorities say they have not heard from anyone claiming to hold him.

Antonius Eitel, the West German ambassador to Lebanon, conferred with Sheik Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, the spiritual leader of Hezbollah, on Friday to seek his help in freeing his fellow countrymen, news agencies in Beirut reported.

"We are seeking to avoid the repercussions of these incidents on the relations between the West German people and the Lebanese people," Eitel said after his meeting with Fadlallah.

At least a dozen West German nationals were evacuated from West Beirut by Lebanese police and under militia protection, while scores of other nationals left via the Christian port of Juniyah.

Awkward Situation

The disappearance of the two West Germans raises the awkward question of whether the Bonn government should exchange them for Hamadi or follow Washington's advice and stand firm.

Hamadi might be tried first in West Germany on explosives and forgery charges before a decision on extradition is made, West German officials told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

That would win time that the government might use to negotiate the freedom of the West German hostages, the officials said.

In Washington, Secretary of State George P. Shultz said that Bonn has given no indication of having second thoughts about extraditing Hamadi because of the status of its missing citizens in Lebanon.

Testifying before the Senate Budget Committee on Friday, Shultz was asked about press reports that the Bonn government might be backing away from extraditing Hamadi.

Los Angeles Times Articles