BEIRUT — Gunmen kidnaped an adviser to Lebanese President Amin Gemayel and a Christian physician Thursday in Muslim West Beirut, where at least 25 foreigners are believed held by Muslim extremists, police sources said.
The sources identified West Beirut's latest kidnap victims as presidential adviser Jean Obeid, 50, and Dr. Alfred Kareh, both Christians.
Meanwhile, the Christian newspaper Al Anwar reported in Beirut that a top aide to Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasser Arafat had talked Muslim kidnapers out of killing three American professors and an Indian colleague they hold captive.
Gemayel's adviser had just left a meeting with Lebanese House Speaker Hussein Husseini at a waterfront hotel and was heading to Christian East Beirut in a chauffeur-driven car when nine gunmen intercepted the vehicle, the sources said.
The gunmen, firing into the air, dragged Obeid out, pushed him into another car and sped away. His driver was slightly wounded in the attack, police said.
A few hours later, a man claiming to speak on behalf of the extremist Islamic Jihad organization called two local radio stations, claimed responsibility for the kidnaping and set a Thursday midnight deadline to exchange Obeid for "Muslims detainees" in Christian East Beirut.
Obeid is one of Gemayel's unofficial advisers. He maintains close links with Lebanese Muslim and Syrian officials and frequently visits Muslim West Beirut for talks with the president's opponents.
He also has made several visits to Syria in recent months in a bid to improve strained relations between Gemayel and Syrian authorities.
Police confirmed Obeid's kidnaping and said "high-level" contacts were under way to locate him and secure his release.
Physician Also Abducted
In the kidnaping of the physician, Kareh, police said he was dragged from his car and taken to an unknown destination.
No group claimed responsibility for Kareh's seizure, the latest in a wave of abductions involving Lebanese and foreigners in West Beirut.
The three American professors and their colleague were kidnaped from Beirut University College on Jan. 24. The Al Anwar newspaper said that Salah Khalaf of the PLO, who is also known as Abu Iyad, told the kidnapers that the United States would "definitely attack if any of the hostages was executed."
Khalaf, chief of security for Arafat's Fatah guerrilla faction, was reached in Tunis, Tunisia, Arafat's political headquarters, by the Associated Press. He said that details of the Al Anwar account were inaccurate but that the PLO has been trying to free foreigners held in Lebanon.
The newspaper quoted informants it did not identify as saying that Khalaf telephoned his warning from the Tunisian capital Monday to Hussein Moussawi, a militant pro-Iranian Shia Muslim leader in Lebanon.
He urged Moussawi to "move fast to stop the kidnapers from fulfilling the execution deadline they had set that day to head off a U.S. military intervention," the paper said.
Moussawi heads the Islamic Amal movement based at Baalbek in the Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley of eastern Lebanon.
Khalaf, while denying details in the Lebanese newspaper report, added:
"However, we've been quietly pursuing this issue with all possible means with the aim of saving all the hostages in Lebanon, and we strongly denounce the killing of any hostage.
"We are totally opposed to the policy of kidnaping and hostage-taking no matter what the motives and causes for such actions are."
A second extremist group, Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine, holds Alann Steen, 47, of Boston; Robert Polhill, 53, of New York City; Jesse Turner, 39, of Boise, Ida., and Mithileshwar Singh, 60, an Indian with resident alien status in the United States.
Classes at Beirut University College were suspended after the abductions but resumed Thursday because of the kidnapers' decision to spare their captives.
"Unfortunately, classes have to resume although we are missing four of our pillars," said acting dean Raja Hajjar, a Lebanese Christian. "We've hired Lebanese professors to fill in for the missing professors on a temporary basis."
Israeli Air Raids
In a rare night raid, Israeli aircraft today hit Palestinian targets in southern Lebanon for the second straight day, the military said. There were no reports of casualties. The raid was at least the seventh this year and the second in less than 24 hours.
Police said one civilian was killed and three people were wounded, including two guerrillas, in an Israeli air raid on the Miye ou Miye refugee camp, south of the port city of Sidon, on Thursday.
At the besieged Borj el Brajne and Chatilla refugee camps in Beirut, two people were reported killed and nine wounded in continued Shia-Palestinian fighting.
Attempts to get food into the starving residents of Borj el Brajne remained stalemated.
About 200 Palestinian women, waving loaves of bread and a variety of medicines, marched through Muslim West Beirut chanting, "Our people need food!"