BEIRUT — The pro-Iranian captors of American and French hostages said Thursday that thousands of suicide bombers have been readied for attacks against the U.S. Navy and European forces in the Persian Gulf.
The typewritten Arabic statement from Islamic Jihad (Islamic Holy War) was delivered to a Western news agency in Beirut. It was accompanied by black-and-white photographs of American hostage Terry A. Anderson and Jean Paul Kauffman, a French captive.
Photographs of the two men were sent by the group as a sign of authenticity of its message. The statement, however, made no mention of the hostages.
Islamic Jihad's statement said the attacks will be patterned after the Oct. 23, 1983, bombings that demolished the headquarters of the U.S. Marines and French paratroopers in Beirut.
Western Forces Withdrawn
The 1983 bombings, carried out almost simultaneously by suicide truck drivers, killed 241 American servicemen at the Marine base and 58 Frenchmen at the other post. Both nations later withdrew their peacekeeping forces from Lebanon.
The envelope holding Thursday's message also contained two pictures of the destroyed bases.
"Thousands of our suicide martyrs currently are in the (Persian) gulf waiting for the proper moment to make a new glory for Islam and the Muslims," the statement said.
At least 23 foreigners, including eight Americans, are missing after being kidnaped in Lebanon. Anderson, the 39-year-old chief Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press, is the longest held hostage. He was seized in Beirut in March, 1985. Kauffman, 48, a correspondent for the French weekly magazine L'Evenement Du Jeudi, was captured May 22, 1985.
In addition, Anglican Church envoy Terry Waite is missing after vanishing last January during a mission to mediate the release of the hostages with Islamic Jihad. No group has claimed to have taken him.
"The coming few days will reveal to the world the true size of America's ability to confront the Muslims. Only the cowardly rulers in the region have illusions about the effect and influence of this paper-thin ability," the statement said, apparently referring to conservative gulf Arab nations such as Saudi Arabia.
"European allies will not be in a better position," it added.
It said efforts are under way to "neutralize" Western Europe in the current confrontation between the United States and Iran in the Persian Gulf to avert "meeting the same fate that is awaiting the Great Satan in the region." The statement echoed the same words Iranian leaders use when referring to the United States.
The United States and many of its European allies have sent warships into the gulf to protect neutral shipping from attacks by Iran, which has been at war with neighboring Iraq for seven years. On Monday, U.S. warships destroyed an Iranian oil platform in the gulf in retaliation for an Iranian missile attack on U.S.-registered oil tankers in Kuwaiti waters.