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U.S. Sees Libyan 'Master Plan' in Berlin Bombing : Attack on Disco Filled With GIs Seen as Political

April 06, 1986|TYLER MARSHALL | Times Staff Writer

WEST BERLIN — Police late Saturday said that they believe the bombing here of a discotheque crowded with American soldiers was politically motivated but admitted they had no firm leads on who planted the device, which left two dead and 155 injured.

The bomb, estimated to have weighed six to 11 pounds, killed a GI and a civilian woman of about 20 believed to be German.

The name of the soldier was withheld pending notification of his family. Fifty Americans were among the injured. Some are said to be in serious condition.

By late Saturday, 25 Americans had been evacuated to a U.S. Army hospital at Landstuhl, West Germany, while eight others remained hospitalized in military and civilian facilities here.

Early-Morning Explosion

The bomb destroyed the discotheque when it went off shortly before 2 a.m. Saturday.

"It was amazing more weren't killed," said Thomas Holman, public affairs officer for the U.S. Mission in West Berlin.

Three groups claimed responsibility for the attack in telephone calls to news agencies in West Berlin and London, but police said that none of the calls were convincing.

One caller to a West German agency here said that the "Anti-American Arab Liberation Front Inshallah" had carried out the attack, but neither West German nor American officials here had any knowledge of such an organization. The other callers said that West German terrorist groups--the Red Army Faction and the Holger Meins Commando, both spinoffs of the Baader-Meinhof group of the 1960s and 1970s--planted the bomb.

'Terrorism' Invoked

Despite the absence of hard evidence reliably identifying those responsible, few people here, official and otherwise, had any doubts that the attack was politically motivated and that American servicemen were the targets.

"I believe it is international terrorism," Mayor Eberhard Diepgen of West Berlin said.

The attack occurred in spite of tighter security measures implemented by U.S. military and West Berlin civilian police in recent days.

U.S. forces and West Berlin police were both said to have been on a high-level alert after receiving reports that West Berlin was one of several West European cities where pro-Libyan terrorists might strike.

Fiery and threatening rhetoric by Libya's leader, Col. Moammar Kadafi--coupled with the bombing of a U.S. commercial airliner last week and France's expulsion Saturday of Libyan diplomats accused of ties to terrorist plotters--led West Berlin and American officials to suspect Libyan involvement.

'No Concrete Proof'

"We consider the possibility of the Libyan connection important, but so far we have no concrete proof that it was them," said Dieter Piete, head of the 100-member police team set up to investigate the bombing. Most of the investigators are from the state security branch of the West Berlin police, which specializes in politically motivated crime. They are being assisted by U.S. military police.

Piete labeled claims that the terrorists slipped into West Berlin from Communist East Germany as "speculation" but added that this has not been ruled out.

The border between East and West Berlin is strictly controlled by East German authorities, but is less rigorously monitored on the Western side because the United States and its allies, who still control West Berlin as a result of Nazi Germany's defeat in World War II, officially maintain that the city should one day be reunited.

Consequently, it would be little problem for a terrorist to enter West Berlin by way of the East.

Police officials noted that Libya and the Palestine Liberation Organization maintain diplomatic missions in East Berlin, the East German capital.

Crossing Points

After last week's terrorist alert, West Berlin police carried out spot checks at key border crossings, but police officials admit that such checks would not have been difficult to elude.

According to Piete, the explosive device was planted near the dance floor of the discotheque. He said that the precise composition of the bomb had not yet been determined but that it was made from commercial or military explosive material.

"It was no amateur chemical mixture," he said.

The discotheque, called La Belle, was known as a GI hangout, and early Saturday, there were many American servicemen there from nearby Andrews and McNair barracks, where combat-support battalions of the U.S. Army's Berlin Brigade are billeted.

"The disco was popular," Holman, the U.S. mission spokesman, noted. "It had good music and was in a good neighborhood."

Clatter, Then Cries

Survivors and residents who lived in the area, the Schoeneberg section, about three miles from the downtown Kurfurstendamm shopping area, described the explosion as a deep, crushing roar.

Loud cracks and the clatter of debris mixed with the screams and shouts of those trapped inside for nearly five minutes, according to one witness, Dieter Jaehnor, as parts of the building collapsed. "Everyone was crying, looking around for friends," he said.

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