Extremist Muslim kidnapers, praising Premier Jacques Chirac for altering French policy in the Middle East, released French hostage Aurel Cornea in Beirut on Wednesday, calling their act "a Christmas good-will gesture."
Gunmen in a black Mercedes-Benz let Cornea off on a street near the seafront in Muslim West Beirut at 6 p.m., a couple of hundred yards from the Beau Rivage Hotel where French diplomats, Iranian and Syrian representatives and a host of journalists were waiting for him. They had been told earlier by the kidnapers to expect the release of a hostage.
Islamic Jihad also claims to be holding two American hostages. They are Terry A. Anderson, 39, chief Mideast correspondent for the Associated Press, and Thomas Sutherland, dean of the school of agriculture at the American University of Beirut. Islamic Jihad said it killed two American hostages, William Buckley, a political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut and Peter Kilburn, a librarian at American University of Beirut.