American Flees Beirut Captors : Journalist Glass Escaped While Guards Slept, Lebanon Police Say

Associated Press

American journalist Charles Glass, who was kidnaped in West Beirut in June, escaped from captivity before dawn today while his captors were asleep and is "safe in Syrian hands," police said.

A barefoot, bearded Glass walked into the seaside Summerland Hotel in West Beirut at 2:30 a.m. and told the hotel receptionist: "I am Charlie Glass. I need a place to hide," a police spokesman said.

Glass, 37, was pronounced fit by a doctor who examined him while awaiting Syrian troops to take him to Damascus.

The police spokesman said that Glass, who was clad in a blue jogging suit, told the receptionist that he escaped through the window of a 10th-floor room where he was being held.

Down the Staircase

"My captors were asleep. I slipped through the window and climbed down the staircase to freedom," the spokesman quoted Glass as telling the receptionist.

The receptionist, whose name was not given, called the Syrian military. An hour later, three Syrian officers entered the hotel and took Glass away, the police spokesman said.

They were believed to be driving to Damascus, a journey that usually takes four hours, the spokesman said.

In July, his captors released a videotape on which Glass read a statement saying he was a spy for the CIA. American broadcasting officials who viewed the tape said he appeared in poor shape and seemed to be speaking under duress.

Glass, a Los Angeles native, is the second U.S. journalist and the fifth foreigner to escape from captivity in Lebanon.

American Jeremy Levin, 55, Beirut bureau chief of Cable News Network, who was kidnaped March 7, 1984, escaped his captors in eastern Lebanon's Bekaa Valley 11 months later. Two other British journalists and a free-lance French photographer also said they escaped their captors in Lebanon.

In Los Angeles, the journalist's father called his son's escape "wonderful news."

"I love every minute of it," said Charles Glass Jr., an attorney who lives in Palos Verdes Estates. "I'm sure he's on his way to Damascus now.

"I've never been on a high like this before in my life," the elder Glass told The Times. "Isn't it wonderful?"

Word From State Department

He said he first heard that his son might have escaped at about 6 p.m. from the State Department, which was relaying a report from the Christian Radio Service in Beirut.

He has talked to his daughter-in-law in London several times, he said, adding that she is excited but not willing to believe it is true "until she's seen him or heard him for herself."

Roone Arledge, president of ABC News, said early Tuesday that Glass' freedom "is a matter of immense joy and relief to the people at ABC News."

"However this has come about, we are particularly thankful to the many people around the world who worked so hard and quietly toward this day," Arledge said. "We are enormously happy that Charlie will soon be reunited with his family and friends, but we are also mindful that many others are still being held. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families."

The Christian-controlled Voice of Lebanon radio station, which first broke the news of Glass' escape, said he arrived at the hotel in a taxicab. The police spokesman said Glass spoke there with Kassem Dirgham, an ABC employee in Beirut.

Glass, a former correspondent for ABC-TV, was abducted on June 17 by 14 gunmen in the suburban district of Ouzai along with Ali Osseiran, son of Lebanon's Defense Minister Adel Osseiran. Glass was beaten with rifle butts and forced into a car trunk.

Osseiran was released a week later. A group calling itself the Organization of the People's Defense claimed July 7 that it had kidnaped Glass, calling him a spy for the CIA. The group is believed made up of Shia Muslim extremists loyal to Iran.

The Ouzai area is a stronghold of Hezbollah (Party of God), a pro-Iranian Shia extremist organization suspected of a number of terrorist actions and believed to be holding other foreign hostages. Ouzai is about two miles from the Summerland Hotel.

The abduction embarrassed President Hafez Assad of Syria, because Glass was the first foreigner seized in Lebanon since the Syrians moved 7,500 troops into West Beirut on Feb. 22 to curb feuding militias. The kidnaping occurred just 300 yards from a Syrian army checkpoint at Ouzai's coastal highway.

Glass, who lived in London with his wife, Fiona, and five children, had been researching a book on the Middle East when he was seized. As an ABC correspondent in 1985, he obtained exclusive interviews with the crew and hijackers of TWA Flight 847 as the plane sat on a Beirut runway.

With Glass free, 24 foreigners are missing and believed held as hostages in Lebanon since March, 1985. They include eight Americans, six Frenchmen, two Britons, two West Germans, an Italian, an Irishman, a South Korean, an Indian and two foreigners who have not been identified.

In June, Glass' father said in an interview with The Times that his son loved Lebanon, perhaps because his mother's parents were Lebanese.

"Charlie loved the country," the elder Glass said. "I guess he felt maybe he was part Lebanese."

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