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Beirut hostage toll rises sharply. Spate of abductions traced to 1985 hijack, clandestine cell

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The latest wave of kidnappings in Beirut, including the abduction of three more Americans, seems to be largely rooted in the June 1985 hijack of a TWA airliner. Since West Germany arrested a young Lebanese Shiite Muslim, Muhammad Ali Hamadi at Frankfurt Airport earlier this month, two West Germans, three Americans, and an Indian with US residency rights, have been kidnapped in Muslim-controlled west Beirut. There were also unconfirmed reports that two other European-looking men were abducted last week.

Mr. Hamadi is accused of being one of three terrorists who hijacked the Trans World Airways (TWA) airliner to Beirut on June 14, 1985. Washington has requested his extradition from West Germany, to stand trial for air piracy and murder.

With the kidnapping of a French photographer and a Saudi diplomat a few days before Hamadi's arrest, the latest kidnaps add up to the most intensive series of abductions of foreigners Beirut has ever witnessed. They follow a three-month lull since the abduction of three Americans last fall.

The most spectacular of these snatches was carried out on Saturday, when four gunmen dressed in uniforms of the Lebanese paramilitary police and driving a police jeep, gained entry to the campus of the Beirut University College.

They told campus officials they had been sent to protect foreign faculty members, and asked for them to be assembled in a room. Once they checked the papers of those assembled, they drew pistols on the three Americans and the Indian, forced them into the jeep, and drove off.

Campus authorities named the three American professors as Alann Steen, Jesse Turner, and Robert Polhill. They said Indian-born professor, Mithileshwar Singh, had an American ``green card'' giving him the status of resident alien in the US.

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