Gunmen Kidnap AP Correspondent in West Beirut

Times Staff Writer

An American journalist was kidnaped by gunmen in West Beirut on Saturday in the third abduction of a Westerner in just three days.

Terry A. Anderson, the chief Middle East correspondent of the Associated Press, was seized in the neighborhood of Ein el Mreisse by three men driving a green Mercedes-Benz automobile.

Two British citizens were kidnaped in the capital's predominantly Muslim western sector Thursday and Friday. No group has claimed responsibility for any of the three abductions.

Also on Saturday, the United States evacuated 11 more of its diplomatic personnel from Lebanon, flying them aboard U.S. Navy helicopters to Cyprus. Eighteen embassy workers were evacuated Thursday as a "temporary measure," according to U.S. officials here and in Washington, because of the uncertain security situation in both halves of the Lebanese capital.

Just Back From Tennis

Donald Mell, a photographer for the Associated Press, said he and Anderson had just returned from a game of tennis when Saturday's kidnaping occurred.

Three bearded men, two with guns, approached Anderson's car, pulled Anderson out and pushed him into the back seat of the Mercedes, knocking off his eyeglasses in the process.

Mell said that when he tried to approach, one of the gunmen waved a pistol at him and indicated that he should stay away.

G.G. LaBelle, the AP's Middle East news editor, said leaders of various militia groups in West Beirut have been contacted in an effort to secure Anderson's release.

Anderson, 37, a native of Ohio, has been AP's chief correspondent here for two years. He is married and has one son.

Six Americans have been kidnaped in West Beirut in recent months, but only one of them, Jeremy Levin, Beirut bureau chief for the Cable News Network, has gained his freedom. He was held for nearly a year.

Briton Seized, Escapes

In addition to Levin and Anderson, Jonathan Wright, a journalist for the British news agency Reuters, was kidnaped last fall, but he managed to escape after two weeks in captivity.

On Thursday, a 60-year-old Briton named Geoffrey Nash, who is a metallurgist for the Lebanese government, was kidnaped in West Beirut while walking to work.

The next day, another Briton, Brian Levick, 59, the managing director of an oil company, was dragged from his car at midday.

After the second kidnaping, British Ambassador David Miers advised all Britons to leave Beirut unless they had "compelling reasons" to stay.

In addition to Anderson, four other Americans remain held by terrorists after being abducted in Beirut. A shadowy, pro-Iranian group known as Islamic Jihad (Islamic Holy War) claims to hold them.

Related to U.N. Vote

While no group has claimed responsibility for the three most recent kidnapings, it is widely believed that they are related to a vote at the United Nations earlier in the week on a Security Council resolution condemning Israel's activities in southern Lebanon. The United States vetoed the resolution, while Britain abstained from voting. Lebanese Shia Muslims had threatened that a U.S. veto would be followed by actions against Americans, U.S. Ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick disclosed the day the veto was cast.

Last September, after a similar veto by the United States, a suicide driver exploded a car bomb at a U.S. Embassy annex in suburban Aukar, east of Beirut, killing 14 people, including two Americans.

Since then, the U.S. Embassy in West Beirut has been closed, and a limited staff has worked out of Ambassador Reginald Bartholomew's residence in the heavily guarded area of Yarze near the Lebanese Defense Ministry.

Secretary of State George P. Shultz said in Washington that the United States would not be "pushed out" of the Middle East by terrorist threats.

'There Is No Point'

"At the same time, there is no point in having people in a situation where there is danger more than you need," Shultz was quoted as saying.

Before the evacuation of 18 Americans on Thursday, there were believed to be about 40 diplomatic personnel working at the ambassador's residence. Saturday's evacuation would leave about 11 officials, including Bartholomew, still here.

In addition, about 20 U.S. Army officers are helping to train the Lebanese army. These officers are believed to still be in Beirut.

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