Hostages Taken to Beach, See Films, Amal Aide Says
A principal aide to the leader of the Shia Muslim militia Amal said Saturday that U.S. hostages from the hijacked TWA jet are being taken on beach outings and shown movies detailing Lebanese violence, including the 1983 bombardment of areas near Beirut by the battleship New Jersey.
The aim of the video sessions is “to show them what America has done to us,” Muslim officials said.
Akef Haidar, head of Amal’s command council, and a ranking leader behind Nabih Berri, the militia chief and Lebanese justice minister, said at a news conference that “some of the hostages have been taken to the beach to swim and sunbathe.”
At night, Haidar said, the captives, all male passengers from the hijacked plane, watch videotapes, including one of the New Jersey shelling Shia and Druze settlements in 1983.
The hostages are being held in secret locations, and it was not immediately possible to verify the account given by the Shia Muslim official. The Reuters news agency quoted Haidar as saying that Amal militiamen were in contact with all the hostages, “not necessarily all the time, but we can see them any time we like.”
This account continued: “They went to the beach and showered . . . at the St. Michel or the St. Simon beach club. . . . Some of them went to the beach to swim three or four days ago.”
Haidar also said the Americans have been shown tapes of the destruction caused by a car bomb March 8 in the Ghobaire district of south Beirut, a Shia Muslim area in which at least 75 people were killed and at least 250 wounded.
Some Shias have blamed that blast on a Lebanese counterterrorist unit reported by some to have loose links to the Central Intelligence Agency. American newspaper reports asserting the CIA connection were later refuted. The attack incensed many Lebanese Muslims and intensified anti-American anger.
Earlier Saturday, Haidar told the Associated Press that some of the 37 American jet hostages now being held in sprawling shantytowns have started learning Arabic--during their “rich experience.”
Haidar said the captives are “in a very good situation” in residences. “Maybe they’re not very comfortable houses, but they’re acceptable houses,” he said.
He said the Americans were being well-fed and have TV sets.
“They’re getting good food. There’s always a menu in Arabic and in English. They’ve got a taste for Lebanese food. Everything for them is fine.”
Haidar said the Americans discuss politics with their captors, “asking questions about the Shiite philosophy and the Shiite religion. Some of the discussions are of a very high level.”
He added that Amal is providing them with English-language newspapers, including Beirut’s Daily Star, and books.
On Thursday, a spokesman for the hostages, Allyn B. Conwell, 39, of Houston, told a news conference arranged by Amal that their accommodations are “adequate in the way of shelter and toiletry and things like that.”
Four groups of Americans are guarded by Amal militiamen in the Verdun-Raouche, Barbour, Ouzai and downtown districts, sources in Beirut said, speaking on the condition that they not be identified.
A fifth group is believed to be held by the extreme fundamentalist Hezbollah, the Party of God, in an unspecified district of south Beirut, the sources said. This group is said to consist of five or six Americans, variously described as those with Jewish-sounding names or those believed to have military connections.
The airliners three crew members are believed to be still aboard the plane.
Haidar said he had seen those captives and that they are safe.
“The hijackers suspected the presence of some Zionists in the plane. I’m sorry, they were talking about Jews,” he said. “For this reason they were taken (off the plane) first, but now they are treated exactly like the others. All the hostages, including the six, are safe,” he said.