U.N. report: Kidnapped Israeli soldiers may be dead
By Ronni Berke
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Three Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon last October may have died from injuries they suffered during the abduction, a United Nations report said Friday.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan commissioned an inquiry into a videotape shot by Indian peacekeepers one day after the October 7, 2000, abduction.
The inquiry uncovered serious errors of judgment and faulty communications, Annan said in a written statement Friday.
The report concluded that the deputy commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) had inspected two field vehicles that may have been used in the kidnapping and found a larger amount of blood than had been disclosed previously. Although the deputy told his field commander of the finding, U.N. officials in New York were not informed.
U.N. peacekeepers concluded at the time that the amount of blood indicated that the occupants "may have been badly injured and may succumb to their injuries," the report said.
This information was never passed on to the Israelis.
"The failure to inform headquarters adequately, and in a timely manner, contributed to miscommunications between the field and headquarters and between the United Nations and member states," said Joseph Connor, undersecretary general for management, who wrote the report.
In addition, the report revealed the existence of two other videotapes filmed around that area at the time -- one by an unknown person, the other that appeared on Lebanese television. The televised video "purports to show still photographs of Hezbollah fighters during the abduction," the report said.
The investigation found no evidence that UNIFIL soldiers had colluded with Hezbollah or even witnessed the kidnapping as some press reports have implied.
Last month, the United Nations said it would allow Israel to view the UNIFIL tape but with the faces of any civilians obscured.
The Israelis repeatedly had asked to see the tape, which shows abandoned vehicles with fake U.N. license plates and uniforms, and a group of Hezbollah supporters intercepting U.N. efforts to retrieve the vehicles. U.N. officials had denied for months that the tape existed.
The deputy force commander, Gen. Ganesan Athmanathan, had ordered peacekeepers to recover the vehicles and a videotape to be made of the recovery. Such filming is standard operating procedure, Connor said.
Connor headed a fact-finding team to Lebanon last month to interview UNIFIL civilian and military personnel.
The team brought back seven blood-stained items from among the 51 found in or around the abandoned vehicles. U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said Friday the United Nations would allow Israeli and Lebanon officials to inspect the items, which include a military belt and a cargo cart.
Annan "will now take administrative measures" to tighten up procedures and ensure "that such lapses in assessment and communication" do not recur, his spokesman said.
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