US: 2 American journalists missing in Lebanon

October 8, 2008 8:57:52 AM PDT
Two American journalists vacationing in Lebanon have not been heard from since Oct. 1 and are believed missing, the U.S. Embassy said Wednesday, appealing for information on their possible whereabouts. An embassy statement said Holli Chmela, 27, and Taylor Luck, 23, reportedly left Beirut en route to the northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli.

The city is a predominantly Sunni Muslim city where militants and Islamic fundamentalists are known to be active. It has witnessed sectarian fighting in the past few months as well as two car bombs targeting Lebanese troops that killed 25 people and left dozens others wounded.

Earlier this week, the embassy had issued a statement to its citizens about potential violent actions targeting Americans in Lebanon and called on its nationals to increase their security awareness. It said the threats were particularly high in the first half of October.

The embassy says the pair had arrived in Lebanon on Sept. 29 from Amman, Jordan for a vacation and told a friend on Oct. 1 that they were traveling from Beirut to Tripoli through the coastal town of Byblos in the north that day. They were then to cross by land to Syria before returning to Jordan where they were due to report to work on Oct. 4.

"The families ... are asking for the public's assistance in providing information on the possible whereabouts of the two U.S.

citizens," the statement said.

Lebanese security officials told The Associated Press they are searching for the two.

The officials said authorities are searching for the two based on information they had gone missing and were trying to ascertain whether they had left the country. They spoke on condition of anonymity in accordance with military regulations and because of the sensitivity of the subject.

The alleged disappearance of the two Americans was reported earlier Wednesday by the local Al-Akhbar newspaper, which said they arrived in Lebanon Sept. 29, stayed in a hotel in Beirut and checked out the next day, without leaving the country. They have not been heard of since, it said.

A Jordanian security official confirmed that the two were believed missing. He said U.S. authorities in Beirut were investigating and that Jordanian authorities are not involved. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press.

The U.S. Embassy said it was coordinating efforts with embassies in Amman and Damascus as well as with the State Department in Washington.

Nimr Shalala, manager of the Beirut hotel where Chmela and Luck had stayed, said they left the hotel Sept. 30 after a one-night stay. "They checked out, took all their belongings and didn't say anything," he told The AP.


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