Reed Reports Seeing 4 Other Hostages
Frank H. Reed said Wednesday that he was with two other American hostages for part of his 43 months as a captive in Lebanon and offered the first confirmation that two British hostages, unheard of since their kidnaping in April, 1986, are still alive.
Clad in a blue hospital bathrobe and shouting answers to questions from a balcony of the U.S. Air Force hospital here, Reed, 57, said he knows that Northern Irish lecturer Brian Keenan and British television journalist John McCarthy, captured in West Beirut on April 11 and April 17, 1986, respectively, are alive.
No group of hostage-takers has ever claimed to hold Keenan, and the claim of a group that originally said it holds McCarthy had never been confirmed.
Reed also said he saw fellow American hostage Thomas Sutherland about 14 months ago and had been held prisoner earlier with Terry A. Anderson, the American journalist who has been a hostage for more than five years, longer than any other Westerner.
“I am very, very angry that Anderson--Tom and Terry are not free,” Reed said. “I am very, very angry that John and Brian are not free. Those are the only people I knew. . . .
“For God’s sake, it’s nearly the sixth year for these men. I’m absolutely embarrassed I’m out before they are.”
About hostages McCarthy and Keenan, Reed was emphatic.
“I can assure you that John and Brian are alive,” he said, adding that he had been with them from last October until his release Monday.
The British Foreign Office confirmed Wednesday that Reed’s statement was the first evidence that McCarthy and Keenan are alive. Unconfirmed reports from the Middle East had suggested that McCarthy might have died. He was abducted on the same day that three hostages--one American and two Britons--were killed in retaliation for a U.S. bombing raid on Libya.
A British organization, Friends of John McCarthy, reported that Reed told McCarthy’s father that both men were well but suffer from minor health problems.
Reed, who was director of the Lebanese International School, said he last saw hostage Sutherland, 57, the former dean of agriculture at the American University of Beirut, in February, 1989. Sutherland was abducted by a group identifying itself as the Islamic Jihad in June, 1985.
Reed did not say when he had seen Anderson, 42, the Associated Press’s Beirut bureau chief, for the last time. But he did say he had spent two years of his captivity in the same house with Anderson, who was abducted by the Islamic Jihad in March, 1985.
Reed’s use of Anderson’s last name and his first name in the same statement caused some confusion, since Anderson has the same first name as British hostage Terry Waite. Waite has not been seen since he was abducted in January, 1987, while representing the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert A. K. Runcie, on a mission in Beirut to try to obtain freedom for the foreign hostages.
Journalists asked U.S. officials at the hospital to obtain a clarification from Reed, but they replied that he had gone to sleep and would not disturb him. U.S. State Department officials in Washington said there is no evidence that Reed was referring to Waite and not merely repeating his reference to Anderson.
On the basis of Reed’s statements about meeting fellow hostages and some information from Robert Polhill, who was released last week, eight days before Reed, U.S. counterterrorism officials say they are slightly revising their views of the various Lebanese groups holding the remaining U.S. and other foreign hostages.
Government experts are growing more convinced that all are captives of radical Shiite Muslim groups that basically belong to one organization, Hezbollah (Party of God), which has direct links to Iran.
“We know, at least, that all the remaining American hostages are hostage to elements of Hezbollah,” said one American official in Wiesbaden who asked that his name not be published.
He said the government no longer believes that Libya had any hand in the capture of any of the six remaining Americans--Anderson, Sutherland, Joseph J. Cicippio, Edward A. Tracy, Jesse Turner and Alann Steen.
Counterterrorism officials in Washington said Wednesday that it now appears that the central figure in the release of two of the remaining six Americans, at least two of the British hostages and possibly other foreigners, is the shadowy Imad Mughniyah, leader of Islamic Jihad.
McCarthy’s abduction was originally claimed by the Revolutionary Commando Cells. Reed’s statement now indicates that both he and Keenan are held by Islamic Jihad.
Mughniyah’s group may hold more hostages than any other Hezbollah cell, which may in turn give him more leverage over the Iranians or Syrians attempting to negotiate an end to the hostage crisis, the U.S. officials said.
His basic demand is freedom for the 15 remaining Lebanese imprisoned in Kuwait for six bombings in 1983, including attacks on the U.S. and French embassies. Among the prisoners is Mughniyah’s brother-in-law, who was sentenced to death.
Kuwait has repeatedly refused to discuss releasing the 15, but it has also not carried out the death sentence, imposed six years ago.
In the recent round of public statements from the Iranian capital, Tehran, the basic demand for further action has centered on freedom for about 400 prisoners under Israeli control. Israel has indicated it is prepared to consider a swap that would also include three Israeli servicemen held in Lebanon.
But U.S. officials said Kuwait is not prepared to negotiate, should that demand emerge again--a factor that could complicate further hostage releases.
Reed’s shouted exchanges with reporters occurred when he appeared on the balcony for what was supposed to be just a “photo opportunity.”
The shaggy gray beard he wore when he was released had been shaved off, and its absence only made him appear more frail and thin.
“I’m feeling good but a little tired because I don’t have any living muscles,” Reed said as he stood in the spring sunlight, his wife Fahima, 39, and 9-year-old son Tarek at his side.
Asked what he plans to do first when he returns to the United States, probably on Friday, Reed responded: “Hide!”
“I’d like to stay another week or two, but they want me out of here on Friday,” he joked.
He said he is confused by the flood of new information that has confronted him since his release.
“There is so much information that I’ve missed. I’m drowned in information,” he said.
Earlier Wednesday, his Syrian-born wife, who prefers to be called Fifi, said Reed was talking almost nonstop and had trouble sticking to one subject.
“He just wanted to talk and talk and talk,” she said.
Some of the subjects of his ramblings were unusual, she noted.
“For one thing, he is very concerned that he has lost the suntan he had four years ago,” she said.
His appearance on the balcony had been preceded by 45 minutes of suntanning on the hospital roof.
When they were finally reunited at the hospital Tuesday, Fifi Reed said, they embraced, both so overcome with emotion that they could not speak.
“We just hugged in complete silence . . . just hugging, hugging, hugging,” she said. “Then he started breaking up. He cried. He broke down and cried.”
She said her husband told her he was kept blindfolded and bound for most of the time of his captivity. For about 90 minutes during the evenings, he was allowed to watch television or read magazines or books but he refused, she said.
“These things were so trivial compared to the things that were snatched away,” she said.
In an interview with NBC’s “Today” show, she was asked if her husband felt anger at his captors.
“It’s hard to say,” she replied. “I mean, he’s angry at everybody right now.”
Asked if that included U.S. officials, she replied: “He didn’t specify that. He just said, everybody.”
In Washington, U.S. officials scurried Wednesday to prevent Reed from appearing on television shows to discuss his captivity, the condition of other hostages and his anger that they have not been released.
Reed initially overruled advice from the American team in Wiesbaden to hold off on interviews, but they later convinced him that it was not in the interest of the remaining six Americans that he discuss their situation extensively.
The former hostage has demonstrated a remarkable appetite and interest in food since his release.
His first request at the hospital Tuesday was a big steak, medium rare, and a beer. Later that night, he dined on fried chicken, apple pie and ice cream.
He awoke Wednesday morning and ordered a breakfast of steak, bacon, potatoes and eggs.
Reed said one of the first things he plans to do when he returns home to his native New England is gorge on a “giant Maine lobster, at least three pounds.”
Times staff writer Robin Wright, in Washington, contributed to this story.