Israeli Commandos Seize Shiite Terror Mastermind : Captured in Daring Border Raid
Israeli commandos helicoptered into Lebanon today and in a daring pre-dawn raid seized a pro-Iranian Shiite Muslim leader believed to be the mastermind of the kidnaping of a U.S. Marine colonel 17 months ago.
An army communique said Sheik Abdel Karim Obeid, 36, was captured with two colleagues at his home at Jibsheet, 10 miles northeast of the Israeli border. It identified him as the leader of the militant Hezbollah Shiite Muslim movement in southern Lebanon.
Israel radio said a dozen commandos, flown in by helicopter, crept up on Obeid’s house before storming it. They used a pistol with a silencer to kill a neighbor who intervened.
“They stormed our house and pointed a gun at me and my mother and tied us up,” Saged, one of Obeid’s five children, told reporters in Jibsheet. “Then they blindfolded my father and the two others and took them away.”
Deplored by Britain
Hezbollah and Iran both condemned the raid and urged Muslim guerrillas to retaliate. Britain also deplored the operation and urged Obeid be freed immediately.
President Bush indirectly criticized Israel, saying, “I don’t think kidnaping and violence helps the cause of peace.” He also said U.S. officials would be in touch with Israel to discuss the raid.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir rejected the criticism from Britain, which came before Bush spoke in Washington.
“I do not remember having seen similar condemnations when terrorist activities resulting in the bloodshed of innocent people were conducted against Israelis out of southern Lebanon,” the spokesman said.
The Israeli army statement said Obeid was “known as a preacher and instigator in carrying out attacks against Israel.”
Fundamentalist sources in Lebanon said Obeid was the mastermind of the February, 1988, kidnaping of U.S. Marine Lt. Col. William R. Higgins, who was serving with U.N. peacekeeping forces in southern Lebanon. The kidnaping was claimed by the shadowy Organization of the Oppressed of the Earth, believed to be a Hezbollah group.
Lebanese security sources said Higgins was initially held at the home of Obeid, who accused the American of espionage.
The Israelis would not explain the abduction, but it could be aimed at making a trade with pro-Iranian militants believed to be holding three Israeli soldiers and Western hostages in Lebanon. The Israelis have been missing since 1986.
Took Less Than Hour
A Hezbollah spokesman in the southern Lebanese port of Tyre said the raid took less than an hour. He identified the two men taken with Obeid as relatives, Ahmed Obeid and Hashem Fahes.
Tyre residents said Israeli jets staged mock raids to muffle the sound of helicopters approaching the area, outside a Lebanese security zone set up by Israel to repel guerrilla attacks on its northern border.
Israeli officials declined to say where the army is holding Obeid. They said no Israelis were hurt in the raid.
In Tehran, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying Iran was confident that “this shameless act by the Zionist regime will not remain unanswered by Muslim and combatant forces.”