Two French Hostages Reported Freed; New Hope for 6 Americans
Two French hostages were handed over to Syrian army control near the Syrian border as part of a deal that also could free six American captives, the Christian Voice of Lebanon radio said today.
The radio, quoting security sources, said Marcel Carton, 63, the former protocol officer at the French Embassy, and Marcel Fontaine, 46, the former French vice consul, were released to the custody of Syrian Brig. Gen. Ghazi Kennan at Aanar near the Syrian border. Both men were kidnaped March 22, 1985.
The radio did not specify when the exchange occurred but said it was part of a secret deal to free the two Frenchmen along with six Americans, including Associated Press journalist Terry Anderson.
Terry Waite Arrives
At the same time, Anglican Church envoy Terry Waite arrived in Cyprus from Beirut and said “something might happen in the next day or two” regarding the release of American hostages, three of whom last month urged President Reagan to work as hard for their release as he had to free American journalist Nicholas Daniloff in Moscow.
The American hostages have been kidnaped over a period that began in March 1984 and have been taken as recently as Sept. 12.
The report said that the eight--the two Frenchmen and six Americans--would be freed in exchange for Georges Ibridhim Abdallah, an Arab terrorist jailed in France.
The release of Abdallah, 35, presumed leader of the leftist Lebanese Armed Revolutionary Faction, has been demanded by two Arab groups that claimed responsibility for a series of bombings in Paris last month that killed 10 people and wounded more than 160.
There was no confirmation yet of the Christian Voice of Lebanon radio report. In Paris, the Foreign Ministry also said it could not confirm that the hostages had been transferred to the Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley.
But the freeing of the hostages into Syrian custody would help recoup Damascus’ image after Britain broke relations with Syria a week ago over charges it masterminded a plot to smuggle a bomb aboard an El Al jetliner bound for Israel.
At least 18 foreigners--including six Americans, seven Frenchmen and two Britons--are missing and believed held hostage in Lebanon.
Islamic Jihad has claimed to have killed American William Buckley, 56, political officer at the U.S. Embassy, and Frenchman Michel Seurat, 37, researcher at Beirut’s Institute of Middle East Affairs, but their bodies have not been found.
Waite, the Anglican Church envoy who has negotiated the release of other hostages in Lebanon, arrived at Larnaca Airport aboard a U.S. helicopter and was met by a U.S. Embassy car, an airport source said.
A diplomatic source in Cyprus said Waite headed directly to the U.S. Embassy but would not comment further.