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Italy May Seek Arrest Warrant for Guerrilla Leader Abu Nidal

January 04, 1986|Associated Press

ROME — Italian judicial authorities investigating last week's bloody airport attack will seek an international arrest warrant for Abu Nidal, leader of a Libyan-backed Palestinian guerrilla faction, newspapers reported Friday.

Magistrate Domenica Sica at the same time ordered an investigation to determine whether there is a large arms cache in Italy that has been used to equip Middle Eastern and European terrorists as well as the Mafia, judicial sources said.

The sources said Sica has specifically demanded a nationwide police report on all the Soviet-made Kalashnikov automatic rifles confiscated in Italy in the last 10 years.

In a telephone conversation with the Associated Press, Sica refused to confirm or deny the report by Italian newspapers of an imminent international arrest warrant for Abu Nidal, who broke away from Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization in 1974 and founded a small, violent band of guerrillas who have attacked Israelis, Westerners and Arafat loyalists.

Abu Nidal, whose real name is Sabri Banna, stays out of public view and has been reported ailing in recent years. Initially backed by Iraq and later by Syria, he now operates out of Libya, according to Western and Middle Eastern analysts.

Mohammed Sarham, identified as the lone surviving terrorist in last week's Rome airport attack, told Sica that the Palestinian commandos who staged the twin Rome and Vienna raids belonged to Abu Nidal's group, according to Italian media reports.

A total of 19 people were killed and about 120 wounded in the attacks. The dead included three of the four Rome terrorists and one of the three Vienna terrorists.

The government, meanwhile, agreed on a bill designed to clamp down on foreigners entering and staying in the country, a measure proposed weeks ago after various terrorist attacks, including the hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise liner in October.

The Palestinian hijackers boarded the ship in Naples. A wheelchair-bound American passenger was shot to death and thrown overboard after the ship was commandeered off Egypt.

The proposed law, which needs the approval of both houses of Parliament, was put forward by Interior Minister Oscar Scalfaro. He said it sprang from "the government's legal and moral duty to guarantee maximum safety not just to the Italian citizen but also to whoever resides in or just passes through our territory."

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