Pro-Iranian captors of three American educators today threatened to take revenge against Salman Rushdie, the publishers of his novel "The Satanic Verses" and their supporters for their insults to Islam.
Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine delivered the threat in a handwritten statement accompanied by an instant photograph of American hostages Alann Steen, Robert Polhill and Jesse Turner.
The group did not directly threaten the hostages, who appeared in a photograph released with the document to prove its authenticity.
The Arabic-language statement, delivered to the office of a Western news agency in Muslim West Beirut, threatened to "take revenge against all those who took part in strong and ferocious campaigns against Islam."
The photograph shows the three bearded hostages from the knees up sitting on what appeared to be a bed and looking straight into the camera.
Arm Appears Thinner
Polhill's left arm and hand are noticeably thinner than in a picture released 14 months earlier, and his left sleeve appears to have intentionally been hiked up to the elbow to show the arm.
The document said the revenge would cover "all institutions and organizations that insulted in one way or another" members of prophet Mohammed's family, meaning Muslims.
The Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini decreed last week that Muslims seek out and kill Rushdie and his publishers because "The Satanic Verses" blasphemes Islam. Iranian clerics have offered $5.2 million for Rushdie's murder.
Rushdie, a naturalized Briton who was born a Muslim in India, is in hiding with his wife in Britain and reportedly under police guard.
15 Believed Held
Steen, Polhill and Turner were kidnaped Jan. 24, 1987, from the campus of the American-affiliated Beirut University College, where they held teaching posts. Steen, 49, of Boston, taught journalism; Polhill, 54, of New York, was assistant professor of business, and Turner, 42, of Boise, Ida., taught mathematics and computer science.
The three are among 15 foreigners missing and believed held hostage in Lebanon by pro-Iranian Shiite Muslim extremists.
In London, former pop singer Cat Stevens, who gave up a successful music career in 1977 after becoming a Muslim, supported Khomeini's execution order on Rushdie. Stevens, whose hits included "Peace Train" and "Wild World," told Muslim students: "The Koran makes it clear: If someone defames the prophet, then he must die."