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300 Terrorists Ready to Move, Suspect Says

December 31, 1985|Associated Press

ROME — A man charged as the lone surviving terrorist in the Rome airport attack says that Libya provided support for the mission and that 300 fellow terrorists are set to launch similar onslaughts, a Rome newspaper said today.

Il Tempo and other newspapers reported that the attackers who hit Leonardo da Vinci Airport in Rome and Schwechat Airport in Vienna on Friday morning also had plans to hijack planes and force them to crash onto Tel Aviv.

The attacks at the two airports left 18 dead and more than 100 wounded.

"There are 300 of us, all devoted to suicide actions. When I left Lebanon, preparations were being made for two other attacks like ours at the airports of Madrid and Paris," Il Tempo quoted Mohammed Sarham as saying.

Sarham is being held in a military hospital. Fifteen people were killed in the Rome attack, including five Americans and three terrorists.

"We have the support of Kadafi and maybe Syria," Il Tempo quoted Sarham as telling investigators. Col. Moammar Kadafi is the leader of Libya.

Good Police Sources

Il Tempo did not say where its information came from, but the conservative Rome daily usually has good police sources. Its past reports on the attacks proved accurate.

Sarham told investigators that planning for the attacks began shortly after Israel's Oct. 1 air raid on the Palestine Liberation Organization headquarters in Tunisia, Il Tempo said. More than 60 people were killed in the air strike.

According to Il Tempo, Sarham told investigators that the attacks were supposed to be suicide actions but that the terrorists hoped to make it more spectacular.

"If everything had gone right," he was quoted as saying, "we would have captured hostages, taken a plane and in the end launched it against Tel Aviv."

It said the plans called for planes from Vienna and Rome to be crashed into Tel Aviv at the same time.

Il Giornale of Milan reported that the terrorists had wanted to take as many Jewish hostages as possible--if airport security did not react quickly or if they survived the initial shoot-out.

Italian Couple Sought

Austrian officials said that they did not think Vienna was a suicide mission but that they thought the terrorists wanted to hijack a plane.

Milan's Corriere della Sera said police were certain, based on Sarham's testimony, that an Italian couple in Rome provided logistical support. It said police were searching for a man and a woman believed to have supplied weapons and money for the airport attack and other terrorist actions.

The Italian news agency AGI said Sarham later changed his version, however, and said he got the four automatic weapons and grenades from a fellow Palestinian in Rome. Il Tempo said the weapons were delivered to the terrorists in Rome's central Piazza Venezia the day before the attack.

Italian investigators believe that the terrorists were trained in Iran and were dispatched from Lebanon to Switzerland, then on to their target cities, according to Italian press reports.

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