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Georges Abdallah: The Key to Paris Terrorism

September 19, 1986|STANLEY MEISLER | Times Staff Writer

PARIS — Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, 35, the heavily bearded prisoner whose freedom is being demanded by terrorists who have killed and maimed at random over the past month, hardly fits the pattern of what a Middle East terrorist is supposed to be.

Abdallah is neither Palestinian nor Muslim, but a Lebanese Christian who professes to have great sympathy for Syria. And while his movement, the Lebanese Revolutionary Armed Faction, has an ideological base, it appears to draw most of its strength from Abdallah's family and his home village.

Abdallah himself has said little for the record. At his trial in July, where he was convicted of carrying false papers and of illegal possession of arms, Abdallah said: "I am not a criminal. I am a combatant."

Role in Killings

He was sentenced to four years in prison. But he is also accused of complicity in the killing four years ago of Col. Charles R. Ray, a U.S. military attache here, and Yaacov Barsimantov, an Israeli diplomat. For these crimes, he could be imprisoned for life.

Abdallah was born in the Lebanese city of Tripoli in 1951 but grew up in Koubeyat, a northern Lebanese farming village of 20,000 Maronite Christians close to the Syrian border. He studied at a teachers' college and taught school until 1979.

As a young man he belonged to the Popular Syrian Party, a Lebanese political party that believed in a greater Syria that would incorporate Lebanon. Later he joined the extremist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, headed by Dr. George Habash, another Christian.

Abdallah is believed to have founded the Lebanese Revolutionary Armed Faction in 1979 in the village of Koubeyat, enlisting his four brothers, Joseph, Emile, Robert and Maurice, and several friends. The French newspaper Le Monde has said that Joseph was the main intellectual influence on Georges. A fifth brother, who became a naturalized French citizen, died in France.

Moved to Paris

Abdallah moved to Paris in 1980 and is believed to have started making contacts with violent, extreme-left organizations in Europe.

In 1981, according to French police reports, his organization began killing American and Israeli officials in France and Italy. The group mounted seven attacks in three years, killing Ray and Barsimantov as well as Gen. Leamon R. Hunt, the American director general of the multinational peacekeeping force in the Sinai Peninsula, in Rome in February, 1984.

The Lebanese Revolutionary Armed Faction began suffering reverses with the arrest of two key members, close friends of Abdallah, in 1984. Abdallah himself approached the French police in Lyon that year, asking for protection against what he said was an attempt by Israeli agents to kill him.

The French police gave him protection but discovered he was traveling on a false Algerian passport. They arrested him and then found a cache of weapons, including the gun that killed Ray and Barsimantov, in Abdallah's apartment in Paris.

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