Shia 'traitor' may be executed by Hizbollah firing squad

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The Independent Online
A LEBANESE Shia accused of betraying a Hizbollah official, Mustapha Dirani, to the Israelis may face a militia firing squad this weekend for his part in leading helicopter-borne Israeli troops to Mr Dirani's house in the Bekaa valley three months ago.

The man, a distant cousin of Mr Dirani, is said to have brought two Israeli officers to the Hizbollah official's village of Ksar Naba, where they posed as Lebanese bird-hunters while planning the logistics of Mr Dirani's abduction.

Israel's interest in Mr Dirani was obvious. It was his Shia militiamen - then working for the Amal movement - who captured Ron Arad, the Israeli airman shot down over Sidon while bombing the Palestinian refugee camp at Ein el-Helwe in 1986. When Mr Dirani defected to the Hizbollah, he took Captain Arad with him as his prisoner and handed him to another pro-Iranian group. The Israelis' campaign to find Captain Arad - the only missing Israeli serviceman who is thought to be still alive - led to their kidnapping operation on 21 May.

Shooting at any bird that flies has long been a popular sport in Lebanon; the Shia man and his two Israeli 'bird-hunters' walked across miles of terrain around Ksar Naba, sniping at the local wildfowl while searching for the most advantageous landing ground. One of the Israelis spoke fluent Arabic with a Lebanese accent; the other is said to have pretended to be dumb. With the Shia's help, they found a short cut to the village through the foothills east of Mount Sannine. Hitherto, no-one knew how the Israelis managed to land two miles from Ksar Naba, take two jeeps off their helicopters and drive directly to Mr Dirani's house.

The imprisoned Shia, however - whose father is said to have agreed on Wednesday that his son must be 'executed' for his betrayal - has apparently confessed to arranging Mr Dirani's kidnap along with the two Israeli officers and three other Lebanese - two men and a young woman - who are now in Israel. Sources in the Bekaa Valley say that the suspect originally gave himself away while recuperating in a Tyre hospital after a minor operation. In a family argument in the hospital, his brother-in-law abused him for working for the Israelis and the conversation was overheard by a Hizbollah official. As soon as he left the hospital, the man was detained by militiamen and taken to the Bekaa Valley for interrogation.

On the last occasion that Muslim militiamen in Lebanon put a man before a firing squad - the Hizbollah 'executed' a local Shia in Baalbek who had killed another man in a clan feud - the Beirut government was accused by opposition politicians of failing to uphold the law by preventing such vigilante shootings. 'Assisting the Israeli enemy' is a capital offence under Lebanese law - but if the man accused of betraying Mr Dirani is put before a militia firing squad, there is certain to be another political storm.