TEL AVIV (Dec. 18)
The mainstream Shiite Amal militia rescued three Irish soldiers and a Red Cross worker in southern Lebanon over the weekend, 24 hours after they were kidnapped by pro-Iranian Islamic extremists.
The kidnapping was said to have been precipitated by an Israel Defense Force crackdown on members of a Shiite fundamentalist group called Believers Resistance.
Meanwhile, two soldiers of the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army were killed when a road mine exploded as their unit passed near EI-Kha-yam village, in the southern Lebanon security zone.
Two Katyusha rockets fired from outside the zone damaged the American Christian missionary radio and television transmitters in southern Lebanon, just north of Metullah.
The kidnapped soldiers were members of the Irish battalion of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. They were snatched by armed gunmen Friday morning while on duty at a UNIFIL checkpoint near Tibnin village, just north of the security zone.
They were returned unharmed Saturday to their battalion headquarters in Tibnin. Amal found them in the vicinity of Tyre on the southern Lebanon coast, less than 10 miles from where they were kidnapped.
The soldiers were suffering from exhaustion, because they were force-marched all night through difficult terrain.
They were identified as Cpl. Patrick Macken, 35; Pvt. Brian Keaney, 25; and Pvt. Bernak McCarugmey, 30. Also held was Peter Winkler, a Swiss official of the Red Cross.