A U.S. Embassy official who has seen the body of an elderly man that washed ashore here on Sunday said tonight that it still had not been determined whether the body was that of Leon Klinghoffer, 69, who allegedly was killed and thrown overboard by hijackers of the Achille Lauro a week ago today.
"There is a body here; we don't know whose it is," said the official, who asked that his name not be used. "We are in the process of trying to identify it, and we are working with the Syrian authorities on it."
He said no autopsy was being conducted here and that the only purpose of the present investigation was to identify the body.
Asked whether the body was badly disfigured, the official said, "I have seen the body. We have access, but I don't know Mr. Klinghoffer, and I prefer not to go into forensic details."
An employe reached at the Italian Embassy late tonight said that "as far as I know the whole case is in the hands of the Americans."
The body is at Tishrin Hospital, a military facility about 12 miles north of the center of Damascus.
Security was tightened around the hospital this afternoon, and Syrian intelligence officials could be seen around its perimeter.
There were unconfirmed reports tonight that a member of the Klinghoffer family was expected to arrive in Damascus soon to help identify the body.