BEIRUT — Masked gunmen in two cars rammed a marked U.N. vehicle off a south Lebanon road today and abducted two Scandinavian employees of the U.N. relief agency that serves Palestinian refugees.
Niall Kiely, chief spokesman for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, identified the kidnaped men as Jan Stening, 44, of Sweden and William Jorgensen, 58, of Norway.
No group claimed responsibility for the abduction.
"We're all convinced that somebody has made a tremendous mistake. We expect the mistake to be rectified very soon and that our colleagues will be released safe and well," said Per Olof Hallquist, agency director in Lebanon.
"If events prove otherwise, however, we will have no choice but to consider the forced departure of all non-essential international staff from the Lebanon field as a matter of urgency," he told reporters at UNRWA headquarters in Muslim West Beirut.
1st Scandinavian Victims
"We can see no reason why a Swedish citizen or a Norwegian citizen should be kidnaped by the same people that they have been trying, as has the United Nations been doing for many, many years, to help," Hallquist said.
Twelve other international staff members of UNRWA are in Lebanon. A Finnish physician in south Lebanon went to a base of the U.N. peacekeeping force after the kidnaping.
The two men kidnaped today were the first Scandinavians abducted in Lebanon, where 22 other foreigners, including eight Americans, are kidnaped and missing. Held longest is Terry A. Anderson, chief Middle East correspondent of the Associated Press, who was seized March 16, 1985.
Most foreign captives are held by Shia Muslim groups allied with Iran.
Police said three gunmen stopped the UNRWA vehicle, forced the men into a waiting car and sped away. A witness said they used the road to a Palestinian refugee camp in Sidon, about 25 miles south of Beirut.
Nutrition and Supplies
Stening and Jorgensen are area operations supervisors with the UNRWA nutrition and supplies program, which cares for Palestinian refugees. Kiely said they were based in Tyre, 50 miles south of Beirut.
Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson of Sweden expressed "utmost regrets" about Stening's abduction. Per Paust of Norway's Foreign Ministry said the Norwegian charge d'affaires in Syria has gone to Beirut.