Eight men with assault rifles and pistols kidnaped the Irish acting director of a U.N. relief agency in traffic in West Beirut today.
The abduction of Aidan Walsh came on the 18th straight day of combat in Lebanon’s capital. Police said fighting raged without letup between Muslim and Christian militiamen through the night and persisted into the afternoon, killing seven people and wounding 16.
Wafa Tanir, spokeswoman for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which helps Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, said Walsh was seized in the Raouche district of Beirut’s mostly Muslim western sector as he drove to his office at 7:15 a.m. Tanir quoted the driver as saying Walsh tried to explain that he was an Irish U.N. official and had nothing to do with politics.
Walsh’s Palestinian driver, Mahmoud Ghanem, told the Associated Press that gunmen in two sedans, a red car and a green one, intercepted Walsh’s station wagon on the seaside Raouche Boulevard.
‘Pistol in My Face’
“One gunman climbed out of the red car, pointed his pistol in my face and told me to turn off the engine,” Ghanem said.
“Three other gunmen opened the back door. One cocked his gun and they ordered Mr. Walsh out of the car.”
Ghanem said that the gunmen forced Walsh into the back of the red car and that the car sped off, followed by the other auto.
Walsh, 49, has served with the relief agency in Beirut since last September. His wife, two sons and one daughter live in Dublin.
The abduction was the second involving the U.N. agency in two months. British journalist Alec Collett, 63, on a writing assignment for the agency, was kidnaped March 25 on the southern edge of Beirut. He is still being held.
A group calling itself the Revolutionary Organization of Socialist Muslims claimed responsibility for Collett’s abduction.
Islamic Jihad, a group believed to be made up of pro-Iranian Shia Muslims, claims that it is holding seven others, including five Americans and two Frenchmen.
The fighting in Beirut this morning mainly was in the shell-ravaged downtown commercial district, the Ras al-Nabaa residential neighborhood and Galerie Semaan district.
Today’s casualties raised the toll to 101 killed and 518 wounded since hostilities flared anew April 28.
Appeal for Syrian Role
Former President Suleiman Franjieh, a Maronite Christian, appealed “from the heart and mind” for direct Syrian military intervention to check the surge of sectarian hostilities that “threaten terrible massacres and colossal dangers.”
Since 1978, Syria has had about 30,000 soldiers and hundreds of tanks in eastern and northern Lebanon.
The Christians’ elder statesman, former President Camille Chamoun, appealed for a “more effective Syrian role” to halt the fighting. “We are convinced that the Syrians can do this if they exert sufficient efforts,” he said.
Chamoun spoke to reporters after meeting the current Christian president, Amin Gemayel, on Tuesday.