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Kidnapers Threaten to Kill Hostage : Callers Demand Bonn Free TWA Hijacking Suspect

January 26, 1987|RUDY ABRAMSON | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Terrorists who kidnaped three American professors and an Indian colleague from a college campus in West Beirut threatened Sunday to execute one of them unless West Germany releases an accused Lebanese airplane hijacker being sought for prosecution in the United States, according to calls to a Beirut radio station.

The threat came in two telephone calls to Beirut's Voice of Lebanon radio, the station reported, adding that the callers attributed the latest seizure of Western hostages to the self-styled Organization of the Oppressed on Earth.

Coupled with the demand for the release of Mohammed Ali Hamadi from a West German jail, the radio station reported, was a threat that "hostages will be finished" if the United States interferes in the Persian Gulf War between Iran and Iraq on the side of Iraq.

Deadline on Release

One caller was reported to have put a deadline of midnight (2 p.m. PST Sunday) on the release of Hamadi, arrested earlier this month in Frankfurt. Washington is seeking Hamadi's extradition to stand trial on charges of air piracy and murder.

The Reagan Administration, already rocked by continuing disclosures growing from efforts to ransom hostages with arms shipments to Iran, declined substantive comment on the newest round of terrorism against Americans.

White House national security adviser Frank C. Carlucci, who has kept President Reagan informed of the developments since word of the latest hostage-taking reached Washington on Saturday afternoon, advised him Sunday of the threatened execution.

The President arrived back at the White House about 11:25 a.m., after an abbreviated weekend at Camp David. A snowstorm sweeping the mid-Atlantic states forced him to return by motorcade rather than helicopter.

Seized on Campus

Saturday's hostages were taken from the campus of Beirut University College in the Muslim sector of the torn city by four gunmen who posed as policemen sent to the school to provide security for foreign faculty and staff members. After calling the foreigners to a meeting on the ground floor of their campus residence, the uniformed men leveled rifles, reported to have been American-made M-16s, at the men, then forced them into a police vehicle and drove away.

The captives were identified as American professors Robert Polhill, 56; Alann Steen, 48, and Jesse Turner, 39, and Mithileshwar Singh, an Indian with resident alien status in the United States.

Reports from Beirut on Sunday said the victims' wives were at the meeting along with other women associated with the college and were quickly separated from their husbands.

State Dept. Warning

In the wake of the kidnapings, the State Department on Sunday reiterated its warning against Americans traveling to Lebanon and cautioned those already in Beirut against remaining there any longer.

Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called upon the Administration to invoke emergency powers and order Americans remaining in the Beirut to leave, as it ordered American citizens to leave Libya.

The State Department refuses to discuss the number of Americans still in the city, but many remaining are believed to be Americans married to Lebanese nationals.

Pell joined former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger and terrorism expert Michael Ledeen in suggesting that the Reagan Administration consider military action against the hostage-takers, or the government supporting them, if they can be identified.

Go After Government

Appearing on the ABC network program, "This Week With David Brinkley," Pell said that if the President "can establish a link between these terrorists and Syria or Iran or any other government, I think he would be justified in going after that government pretty hard." He said he would support such a military action "if the link is clearly established."

Kissinger said that if an Iranian government connection to the kidnapings is clearly established and leads to a decision to use military force, "it should be taken carefully, cold-bloodedly, but frankly inexorably."

"I would certainly make it clear that Americans taken hostage cannot expect the American government to negotiate for their release," he said, "because once you begin a negotiation you have made it clear that there is some price you are willing to pay, and you are haggling about the price."

West Germans Also Held

In addition to the four professors kidnaped Saturday, at least two West Germans--and possibly four--have been taken captive in Beirut since Jan. 13 when Hamadi was arrested attempting to board an airliner in Frankfurt with bottles of nitroglycerin in his possession.

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