Real Name: Bashir "Gaby" Kouchacji
Case: Harassment, Abduction, Attempted Murder
Location: Beirut, Lebanon (Abduction); Washington D.C. (Harassment)
Date: July 1, 1974 (Abduction); 1982-1993 (Harassment)
Details: These days, many people take the convenience of the telephone for granted. But for Bashir Kouchacji of Washington, D.C., it has become a frightful source of terror. For nine years, he has received between fifteen and twenty threatening phone calls per day. The calls come from unseen terrorists who conceal their identities by calling from pay phones. They have also come after his friends and their families. What makes this horror that much more disturbing is that no one knows why he has been targeted or who is responsible.
In 1974, Bashir and his wife, Gail, moved to Beirut, Lebanon. She was a professional singer who entertained at the Phoenicia Hotel, a well-known gathering place for Middle East diplomats and arms dealers. Shortly after midnight on July 1, Bashir was on his way to pick her up from a party hosted by a Saudi princess when a van drove him off the road. Several unknown armed men came out of it and abducted him. He feared that they were going to rob him. However, he figured that he would not be hurt because he was a U.S. citizen. He figured that he would be able to explain his way out of the situation.
Bashir was taken to a basement in an unknown location and held hostage there. The windowless room had one light on the ceiling and a blanket on the dirt floor. He hoped that the abduction was related to politics, and that he would be released once they realized that he was not a politician. Two hours later, his abductors came to question him. When he told them that he was a U.S. citizen, they accused him of being from the CIA. They beat him and tortured him at regular, two-hour intervals over the next few days.
Bashir's abductors refused to let him sleep and gave him only small meals. He could only tell the time of day based on these meals. On the fifth day of his captivity, he began to hallucinate. He imagined hearing the anguished screams of his family. This was too much for him, so he tried to commit suicide by slashing his wrists with a jagged piece of plastic. Surprisingly, the terrorists took him to a hospital where doctors saved his life. With the help of the hospital and his family, his release was negotiated. To this day, he does not know who took him hostage or why.
Two months later, Bashir returned to the United States. He and Gail divorced; soon after, he became the manager of an exotic North African restaurant on Hollywood's Sunset Strip. The restaurant became popular with recording stars, music stars, and celebrities. Within a few years, he and his family would open restaurants in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. In 1982, just as Bashir's life appeared to return to normal, he began receiving a series of threatening phone calls at the D.C. restaurant.
At first, the caller would not say anything; all Bashir could hear was breathing. However, the caller later started threatening him, saying that "he would be killed". The caller also started mentioning the names of Bashir's old friends and acquaintances that he had not seen in years. On some days, the caller would make up to twenty calls. Some calls were obscene, others were very threatening. The calls would continue in Philadelphia when Bashir would visit his other restaurants. In some of the calls, he could hear people laughing and screaming and the sounds of machine gun fire.
Curiously, many of the phone calls appeared to come from a young child, dubbed "L'Fant," or" l'enfant" (French for "the child"). Some of the voices were of a young girl, others were Middle Eastern men. The calls brought back memories of Bashir's abduction; the screams sounded identical to those coming from other prisoners. In May 1986, the harassment turned violent when Bashir's car caught fire. His mechanic inspected the car and believed that someone had tampered with its wires.
Bashir asked the FBI to investigate the threats to his life. A tap was placed on his telephone, which recorded more than 3000 threatening calls over an eighteen-month period. However, there was no distinct pattern in where the calls originated. No arrests were ever made. Journalist Lewis Beale was told by the FBI that the calls were coming from various payphones in the metropolitan area, which included Maryland and Virginia along with D.C. Some of the calls were coming in two times a minute, which suggested that multiple people were involved.
Finally, Bashir committed himself to the psychiatric ward of a hospital. He did this to seek therapy and isolate himself from the constant barrage of phone calls. While he was in the hospital, his replacement at the D.C. restaurant, Raj Tuli, became the target of the harassment. The caller threatened to kill him, and also claimed to know his exact schedule, movements, and the location of his home.
Three weeks after Raj became manager of the restaurant, his son Richard was targeted. While walking home from school, two men approached him, asking if he was Richard. When he responded, they brutally attacked him. Later that day, "L'enfant" called Raj and confirmed that they had attacked his son. The next day, someone painted "Richard Will Die" on the front door of the Tuli home.
Bashir lived in the psychiatric ward for at least six years. During that time, his harassers were still able to call him. In 1993, he was still receiving up to seven calls per week. Bashir still has no idea why he is being targeted. However, he believes that it has something to do with his time in Lebanon and his abduction.
Suspects: The threatening phone calls are suspected of being from a child, but the reason for the child doing this to Bashir is unknown. Due to the number of calls, it is believed that there are multiple people involved.
Bashir and others suspect that the harassment may be related to Bashir's 1974 abduction in Beirut. He suspects that he may have come in contact with shadowy figures there. His wife would sometimes invite him to parties thrown by so-called "arms dealers" who were important in Beirut politics.
Journalist Lewis Beale suspects that one of Bashir's abductors may have been someone that later became a diplomat or politician in Lebanon. He suspects that the individual(s) may have moved to Washington D.C. and decided to harass Bashir in an attempt to get him to leave the area so that he could not identify them.
- This case first aired on the February 17, 1993 episode, as part of the "Terrorism Special".
- It was excluded from Amazon Prime episodes.
Results: Unsolved. State Department documents revealed that Bashir had been kidnapped by rogue members of the PLO, or Palestine Liberation Organization, who mistakenly believed that he was a CIA agent. It is not known if the PLO members were involved in the harassing phone calls.
Bashir spent several years in and out of mental hospitals. The harassment by "L'enfant" stopped after the broadcast. In 2002, he became the source of controversy when he started two anti-Semitic and homophobic websites and posted ads in the Washington Post, claiming that "Jews and the Israeli government" were responsible for his abduction and harassment.
- For Nearly 10 Years, a D.C. Restaurateur Has Lived in Fear, Harassed by Anonymous Calls - August 19, 1992
- Fear, Harassment - August 19, 1992
- The Reilable Source - Trouble in Marrakesh - July 11, 2002
- My years as a belly dancer at Marrakesh - 2013
- A Man Receives Thousands of Bizarre Phone Threats ... for Nearly a Decade - October 29, 2014
- The Bizarre Saga of "L'Enfant": Bashir Kouchacji is Tormented by Thousands of Threatening Anonymous Calls for a Decade - July 5, 2017
- SitcomsOnline Discussion of Bashir Kouchacji