BEIRUT — Gunmen today hurled a hand grenade at Amal Muslim militiamen searching for a kidnaped U.S. Marine in south Lebanon. Police said eight people were wounded.
A police spokesman said two gunmen threw the grenade from a speeding car at an Amal militia checkpoint near the inland village of Dweir. Militiamen at the checkpoint were searching cars looking for Lt. Col. William R. Higgins.
The attack coincided with a threat by Amal to use force to free Higgins. Amal also summoned Shia clerics to a meeting to discuss his abduction.
"Six Amal militiamen were wounded along with two civilians," said the police spokesman, who could not be named in line with standing regulations.
Higgins, 43, was abducted Feb. 17 near Tyre, 50 miles south of Beirut. He headed an observer group assigned to a U.N. peacekeeping force in south Lebanon.
The pro-Iranian Organization of the Oppressed on Earth claimed that it abducted Higgins and alleged that he was a CIA spy. U.S. and U.N. officials denied the accusation.
"The resort to force to free Higgins is not unlikely once we locate the place where he is being held," said Daoud Daoud, Amal's military commander in south Lebanon.
Daoud, who has been supervising the search for Higgins, said he had "confirmed information that 25 people specializing in kidnaping have been sent to south Lebanon to abduct more foreigners." He did not elaborate.
Daoud's remarks were broadcast by the Beirut-based Voice of the Nation radio.
Amal has arrested six men it says were involved in the kidnaping. The detainees, however, have not been able to provide information on the whereabouts of Higgins and the mastermind of the abduction, who reportedly has fled the area.