Jihad Offers to Free Ailing Steen if Israel Releases 100

Associated Press

Muslim kidnapers said today American hostage Alann Steen is sick and "may die within 10 days." The captors offered to free him if the United States pressures Israel to free 100 Arab prisoners.

A handwritten Arabic statement delivered to the independent Beirut newspaper An-Nahar was signed by Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine, which holds three American teachers and one Indian professor.

The group said Steen, a 47-year-old Boston native and a communications instructor at Beirut University College, fell ill in captivity.

An-Nahar said the statement was accompanied by a photograph of another hostage, Robert Polhill, 53, of New York City, professor of accounting at BUC, as evidence the document was genuine.

Was in Good Health

In Stockton, Calif., Bruce Steen said of his brother: "As far as I know he was in good health." He added it appeared from recent photographs that his brother had lost weight in captivity.

In its statement on Steen, the Islamic Jihad group said: "We announce that American spy Alann Steen has fallen sick. His physical condition may deteriorate and he may die within 10 days as doctors who advised care for his condition have said.

"Our humanitarian motives require that we free the ill spy in exchange for 100 prisoners in occupation jails. Therefore, the U.S. Administration is required to act within this period to pressure the Zionist enemy to arrange the swap."

It said the United States and Israel would bear the responsibility of "the dangers he will be exposed to after this period," and promised to release a videotape that would show Steen's illness and condition within 72 hours.

Will Make List of Prisoners

The statement said the group would draw up the list of names of prisoners it wants freed "if the American Administration asked us to do this."

The United States has in the past rejected suggestions from hostage holders that it try to influence Israel to release prisoners.

The Revolutionary Justice Organization, meanwhile, released a videotape of French hostage Jean-Louis Normandin saying the group has canceled plans to kill him in response to pleas from Sheik Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, the most influential Shia Muslim leader in Lebanon, and Greek Catholic Bishop Hilarion Capudji.

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