BEIRUT, Lebanon -- Three gunmen seized an American journalist in mostly Moslem west Beirut today, separated him from his American colleague and drove off with him in the third abduction of a foreigner in as many days.
The men, armed with pistols, got out of a car and approached Terry Alan Anderson, the Beirut bureau chief of The Associated Press, as he was dropping off AP photographer Don Mell at his apartment after a tennis game, Mell said.
'When I saw them getting out of the car I said to Terry, 'I don't like this. Get out of here,'' Mell said. 'I moved away from the car. Terry started backing up. The guy (gunman) who got out of the back seat of the car opened Terry's car door, reached in and grabbed him.'
Mell said he had seen the three men, all in their 20s, twice before today and believed they were tailing him and Anderson.
'Terry started saying something ... I was trying to decide what to do -- run away or what,' Mell said. 'I then decided to get as close as possible. One man pointed his pistol at me and forced me back. They obviously only wanted Terry.
'I moved away toward the doorway. They sped off. I saw his glasses fall off. He (was) pushed into the rear seat behind the driver,' Mell said.
Anderson, 37, of Lorain, Ohio, has worked in Lebanon for at least two years and is also the chief Middle East correspondent for The Associated Press. The former U.S. Marine has worked for the AP since the mid-1970s in Tokyo, Johannesburg, Detroit and Louisville, Ky.
AP Foreign Editor Nate Polowetzky said in New York, 'We are deeply concerned about the events in Beirut and are seeking all possible information regarding the welfare of AP correspondent Terry Anderson. We will, of course, pursue all avenues for his release and safe return.'
The kidnapping came less than 24 hours after five gunmen seized a British businessman, set his car ablaze and sped off with him. A British scientist was kidnapped Thursday in a similar manner. No one has demanded a ransom or claimed responsibility for either seizure.
Anderson was kidnapped two days after the U.S. Embassy moved a number of American personnel out of Christian east Beirut because of what a White House spokesman described as 'the unsettled situation' in Lebanon.
A spokesman for the British Embassy in Beirut said today it was advising all Britons to leave Beirut 'unless they have compelling reasons to stay.' There are an estimated 500 Americans in Lebanon and several hundred Britons.
The spate of kidnappings began after the United States vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israel's crackdown in southern Lebanon. Britain abstained in the U.N. vote.
U.S. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick cast the sole vote that killed the resolution, even though she said Americans in Lebanon and elsewhere had been threatened by Shiite Moslem militants.
The pro-Iranian group Islamic Jihad, or Holy War, says it is holding four Americans who disappeared over the last year in West Beirut. Islamic Jihad has made no threats against Britons.
The two missing Britons are Brian Levick, 59, a company director, and metallurgist Geoffrey Vernon Nash, 60.
The missing Americans are the Rev. Martin Lawrence Jenco, 50, the director of Catholic Relief Services, who was kidnapped Jan. 8 by a gang of gunmen; Peter Kilburn, 60, a librarian at the American University of Beirut who was kidnapped last Nov. 30; the Rev. Benjamin E. Weir, 60, a Presbyterian minister taken by gunmen last May; and William Buckley, a political officer at the U.S. Embassy who was abducted in March 1984.
American reporter Jeremy Levin, kidnapped in West Beirut last March, escaped from a villa in eastern Lebanon's Bekaa Valley and turned himself over to Syrian troops on Feb. 14. An Islamic Jihad caller later said Levin had been deliberately allowed to go free.