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Amal shows hideout where Col. Higgins allegedly was held

By ABDEL MAWLA KHALED

KAWTHARIYET AL SEYYAD, Lebanon -- The pro-Syrian Shiite Amal militia took reporters to an unfinished building Thursday where they said the rival Hezbollah militia temporarily held and possibly tortured U.S. Marine Lt. Col. William Higgins before he was slain.

Amal official Melhem Kanso led reporters and cameramen into a darkened underground shelter of a two-story unfinished building on the edge of the Shiite village of Kawthariyet al Seyyad, 10 miles southeast of the port city of Sidon, and 24 miles from Beirut.

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'Colonel Higgins was kept in this hideout for two or three days,' Kanso said as showed reporters guns and ammunition scattered on the floor along with metal tools he said were used for torture.

'Higgins was here ... He was held before he was transferred to Beirut,' Kanso said.

Higgins, 43, who commanded a U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, was kidnapped Feb. 17, 1988, in southern Lebanon and the Organization of the Oppressed on Earth, believed to be a Hezbollah splinter group, claimed responsibility. He was hanged by the extremist group July 31 in retaliation for the Israeli abduction of a Hezbollah spiritual leader.

A helicopter-borne Israeli commando force had taken Sheikh Abdel Karim Obeid and two of his relatives a few days earlier from a Shiite village in southern Lebanon. They were flown to Israel.

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Obeid, 36, is a leading Hezbollah figure and a founder of the Islamic Resistance, an extremist group that stages hit-and-run attacks on Israeli troops and Israeli-backed militiamen in southern Lebanon.

Amal has been battling with Hezbollah for the control of the south since Dec. 23.

At least 88 people have been killed and 300 others wounded in the Tufah area, east of the port city of Sidon, 24 miles south of Beirut.

The deployment of some 700 Palestinian guerrillas in certain parts of the strategic district two weeks ago checked the advance there of the fundamentalists, who gained the upper hand in the 27-day fighting.

Kanso accused Hezbollah of planning to assassinate Amal chief Nabih Berri a few days ago and to 'liquidate' Amal leaders in south Lebanon.

'We found documents proving that Hezbollah was implicated in the assassination attempts,' Kanso said. He added that explosives, machine guns and silencers were also discovered in nearby hideouts.

Kanso said Amal executed two Hezbollah members five days ago after they confessed that the party ordered them to assassinate Berri and other Amal leaders.

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