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Ceausescu Bunker: Hub of Dreaded Securitate : Romania: The stronghold was where the dictator's crack force was prepared to make its last stand.

December 30, 1989|CHARLES T. POWERS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BUCHAREST, Romania — Three levels below the basement of the Romanian Communist Party's Central Committee building, there is a bunker built strong enough to withstand a nuclear attack. One room of its command center contains a wall of Japanese- and American-made equipment. It has now been shot to pieces, its wiring and circuitry ripped loose.

This was where Nicolae Ceausescu's Praetorian Guard, the fanatical presidential protection unit of the Securitate, was prepared to make its last stand in defense of its leader.

It did not work out that way.

The three levels of the bunker are now occupied by soldiers of the Romanian army and volunteers of the Civilian Guard. At midday Friday, on the uppermost level of the bunker, weary soldiers slept on rows of folding chairs or on the floors of interconnecting rooms. Some ate quietly from cans of food, their assault rifles close at hand, as they rested from their shifts of tense guard duty in the narrow-carpeted passageways, which are interrupted by hatchway doors 2 1/2 inches thick.

The doors are painted battleship gray, labeled with coded letters and numbers, and each weighs 1,000 to 2,000 pounds. Each is closed by four massive hatch latches. The soldiers now on duty in this underground maze know that on the other side of these doors, a network of tunnels leads out into the city. There is only one other thing that soldiers know about those doors: that somewhere beyond them are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of trained and fanatical killers, Ceausescu's last gift to the Romanian people.

The mood in the bunker is taut. The soldiers and their officers move cautiously and quietly and speak in low tones. They take no visitors to the lowest depths of the bunker. It is difficult to tell whether the tension arises from a sense of imminent danger, the strangeness of the setting or the experience of spending the last week in combat against a force of fighters whose lethal fanaticism seems a creation out of science fiction.

The fear is shared by the provisional government that has taken over from Ceausescu.

Silviu Brucan, the respected 73-year-old diplomat who is a member of the 11-man council at the top of the new National Salvation Front, warned Friday that the several hundred members of the Securitate who remain at large are planning a program of assassination against the new government.

"They realize they have been beaten," Brucan said, "and we expect them to focus on the center, to decapitate the movement, to kill the leaders of our movement. Therefore, I have been traveling in Bucharest only in a tank for the last three days. I can tell you one thing--every time I moved, the tank was shot at. They know I am inside."

Although the shooting in central Bucharest seems to have stopped, the sniping has not. On Thursday night, a woman was brought to the city's main emergency hospital, wounded by a sniper.

The soldiers who wait now in the Securitate's underground bunker are amazed and mystified by their opponents. A young army major and a 22-year-old Civilian Guard member (for the safety of their families, they asked that no other identification be used) told of the Securitate bunker and of the men they had been fighting.

The Securitate fighters, they believe, were part of Ceausescu's crack presidential guard. In the first three days of the battle, when fighting went on across the palace square in front of the Communist Party Central Committee building, the Securitate fighters were wearing black jumpsuits with a red silk stripe down the right side. They wore black berets. They used submachine guns and high-powered rifles with infra-red sniper scopes.

"They used Romanian-made, Soviet-model rifles," the major said. "They used small machine guns and other German, English or Italian weapons, all of the highest quality. They were very good shots. They shot only at the head."

The tunnels these Securitate fighters used, the major said, have been explored only a short distance from the bunker.

"We've blocked them off," he said, "to prevent them coming in. They can lock themselves in the tunnels."

The two officers said they assume the tunnels are booby-trapped.

"Also in the bunker is a bomb shelter," the major continued, "that we think could stand in a nuclear attack. It has a sophisticated air purification system and stores of food and water. There is a control room with instruments, communications equipment, covering one entire wall. There are telephones and televisions. At the moment they left, most of this equipment was destroyed. it was shot up, or ripped out.

"We also found a special room for the decontamination of men and equipment. There is an office near this and a room for sleeping, with beds and toilets. This is at the center of the bunker, with easy access from several directions."

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