The mysterious disappearance of the spiritual leader of South Lebanon's Moslems is continuing to cause concern.
The mysterious disappearance of the spiritual leader of South Lebanon's Moslems is continuing to cause concern. Imam Mousa sadr left Beirut on August 25 on an official visit to the Libyan Jamahiriyah and has not been seen since. The Libyan authorities claim that the 50-year-old Imam left Tripoli six days later on a flight to Rome, but investigators have been unable to verify this. The Lebanese Government, the Palestine Liberation Organisation and a Moslem council have all sent investigators to Tripoli and Rome, and to Paris where the Imam's family lives. Interpol has also been alerted.
SYNOPSIS: Almost one million Shi'ite Moslems in Lebanon look on Imam Sadr as their spiritual leader. His disappearance has caused great disquiet among his followers, prompted newspaper speculation, and sent reverberations through the Arab world. On Tuesday (September 19), Moslems all over Lebanon protested at the Imam's disappearance by holding a "sit-in" in their mosques - long after the usual end of noon prayers.
The previous day, rumours had spread quickly through Beirut that Imam Sadr had been found. Moslem gunmen celebrated by shooting into the air, but the Higher Shi'ite Council swiftly denied the stories and said they were an attempt to disrupt the nationwide "sit-in." A few days earlier, thousands of Moslems had staged a one-day strike over the mystery in Beirut. Shops, offices and schools closed, streets were deserted and dense smoke from tyres being burnt in protest rose over the capital.
Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, met Shi'ite leaders to discuss the disappearance. Syria, Morocco, Jordan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are also reported to have offered help with investigations. Beirut newspaper speculation includes suggestions that the Imam has been kidnapped by Iranian secret police, particularly as the Iranian-born leader made no secret of his sympathy for Ayatullah Khomeini - the Shah of Iran's main Moslem opponent. In the absence of clues, speculation continued.