BEIRUT — BEIRUT, Lebanon -- The fate of American and other Western hostages held in Lebanon by underground factions aligned with Iran has taken a new twist.
The families of four missing Iranians demanded yesterday that the bodies be handed over as a condition for helping secure the release of Western captives.
The fate of the four has been intertwined with that of Western nationals believed held hostage by pro-Iranian Shiite Muslim groups associated with the Party of God.
The disappearance of the Iranians eight years ago brought the first wave of abductions of Americans and other Westerners.
But Lebanese security officials said the revival of the case of the missing Iranians has hindered the release of three British hostages: Terry Waite, an Anglican Church envoy; John McCarthy, a journalist; and Jack Mann, a retired airline pilot.
The delegation representing the families of the four, who vanished after being stopped at a Christian militia checkpoint in July 1982, were told Wednesday that their relatives were killed within hours of their capture.
The news was given to the delegation by Samir Geagea, the commander of the militia known as the Lebanese Forces, members of the group said.
The four missing Iranians were riding in their diplomatic car between the northern port of Tripoli and Beirut, and were last seen at the Lebanese Forces checkpoint 12 miles south of Tripoli.