Italian police said Saturday they had arrested a Lebanese woman carrying photographs of at least two American hostages held in Beirut and believed she could have been a go-between in negotiations for their release.
The woman, Aline Ibrahim Rizkallah, was also carrying coded documents addressed to the owner of an Italian import-export company the police believe may have been involved in talks over the hostages.The police said the photographs, hidden in the false bottom of a bag, were of Alan Steen, a journalism professor, journalist Terry Anderson and another man who had not been identified. Police named the third man as Thomas Sutherland but said later they no longer believed it was him.
Rizkallah, 36, was stopped by customs police at Milan's Linate airport on Thursday after flying in from Beirut. Police said they also found $1,000 in false banknotes and two ounces of heroin concealed on her person.
They said the Italian businessman, who they did not name, had been waiting for her at the airport and was also being questioned.
The pro-Iranian group Islamic Jihad (Holy War) Friday threatened the lives of Anderson and Sutherland to avenge Israeli air raids that killed nine people in southern Lebanon.
The threat was made in a statement to an international news agency and the independent an-Nahar newspaper shortly after Israeli jets blasted Palestinians and Hizbollah (Party of God) militants in the southern and eastern Bekaa valley.
Islamic Jihad kidnapped Anderson, the Middle East bureau chief of the Associated Press news agency, in March 1985 and Sutherland was abducted three months later.
Steen was seized by a group calling itself Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine in January 1987.
The Islamic Jihad statement was accompanied by a photograph of Anderson.