Indian Hostage Freed by Captors in Beirut
A U.S. resident of Indian origin who was held hostage along with three Americans was set free unharmed in Syrian-policed West Beirut today, Christian Voice of Lebanon radio station said.
Quoting security officials, the radio said Mithileshwar Singh, who was held along with Alann Steen, Jesse Turner and Robert Polhill, was freed by his captors outside the Kuwaiti Embassy building.
“Mr. Singh was freed a short while ago near the Kuwaiti Embassy,” the radio quoted an unnamed official as saying in a bulletin at 10:30 p.m. local time.
The release came after the group holding the four hostages, Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine, said it was releasing one of the captives in Beirut this evening.
The group, in a handwritten statement, said: “After finalizing all necessary arrangements, we announce that a hostage will be freed between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.”
It had released a photograph of Turner and Singh, triggering speculation that one of the two men was to be freed.
Hours earlier, Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Shareh had said an American hostage held in Lebanon would be released in Damascus, the Syrian capital. Shareh told reporters at the United Nations in New York that the hostage, whose name was not given, would be released soon.
“I have good news for you,” Shareh said. “One of the American hostages will be released in about an hour from now.”
“He has been kidnaped in Lebanon, and Syrian security will bring him to Damascus, where he will be handed over to the U.S. ambassador.”
Earlier reports had said Steen, a communications professor at Beirut University College, was the hostage to be freed but Steen’s wife, Virginia, 32, refused to confirm it.
Earlier, a White House spokesman said President Reagan had received unconfirmed reports about the release of a hostage.
During a picture-taking session in Washington, President Reagan said he was awaiting further word. “We’re waiting to get some confirmation,” he said. “As far as we know, no hostage has been released as yet.”
Spokesman Marlin Fitzwater told reporters that information was passed to the White House this morning but that there were no details as to the name of the hostage or the time or place of release.
“We’ve been advised it is expected to happen by governments in the region,” Fitzwater said then, declining to identify the sources of the information.
“We haven’t been told a name, time or any details. I hasten to point out we have almost no details and no confirmation. It hasn’t happened. I can’t speculate.”
“No deals have been made. We have had no negotiations,” Fitzwater stressed.
Under questioning, Fitzwater acknowledged that U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar has sought the release of the hostages in Lebanon, and there have been interventions by others in the region.
Steen and Turner were seized in January, 1987, along with Robert Polhill and Singh. All four were professors at Beirut University College.