Israeli Soldiers Grab Shiite Guerrilla Leader

Article excerpt

Israeli commandos swept into Lebanon's eastern mountains on Saturday to abduct a Shiite Muslim guerrilla leader.

Israel accuses the guerrilla leader, Mustafa Dirani, of leading a group that captured an Israeli airman shot down on a bombing raid in southern Lebanon eight years ago. Israel believes Dirani's men later sold the Israeli, navigator Ron Arad, to Iranian soldiers in Lebanon for $300,000 - and that Arad is still alive.

On Saturday, about 40 Israeli commandos in two helicopter gunships flew over Lebanon's mountain backbone to storm Dirani's first-floor apartment in the village of Qsarnaba. They tied up Dirani, his wife and brother, and kept five children in another room, Dirani family members said.

"They carried him out amid the screams of his wife, who was in the bedroom with him," said Abdel-Karim Dirani, the kidnapped man's brother. "I tried to do something but couldn't. The Israelis had guns pointed at me, and they threatened to kill one of the girls."

The commando raid took seven minutes. There were no casualties.

Mustafa Dirani, 43, was taken to Israel, where officials will question him about Arad, an F-4 Phantom navigator captured in October 1986. Dirani was head of security for the Syrian-backed Shiite Amal militia when his men were believed to have captured Arad near Sidon; his pilot was rescued.

Dirani later broke away from Amal and founded the Believers Resistance group, which apparently turned Arad over to an Iranian Revolutionary Guard contingent in 1989. Iran has denied holding Israelis on Iranian soil.

Gen. Ehud Barak, Israel's military chief of staff, said Israel had reason to believe that Dirani still had information about Arad's whereabouts, at least more than anyone else Israel has been able to identify. …