ROME (Mar. 21)
Police said today they believe four briefcases containing submachine guns and grenades found at the Leonardo da Vinci International Airport Monday were brought here by at least three Arabs flying from Tripoli, Libya. They said the suspects have already left the country. The police said they still do not know whether the briefcases were brought here for pickup by a terrorist gang which never kept the appointment or whether the suspects themselves planned a terrorist action but abandoned the weapons because of strict security measures at the airport.
The briefcases were found between chairs at three exit gates. Each contained a sterling submachine gun, four clips of ammunition with 48 rounds to a clip, and a hand grenade and a smoke bomb. Police here do not exclude the possibility that an attack was planned at the airport itself. where two El Al airliners were parked at about the time the briefcases were discovered on Monday. However, as is the usual practice the Israeli aircraft were kept some way away from the main terminal building and surrounded by special anti-terrorist squads.
Suspicion rested on the three Arabs after police questioned all airline and airport employes on duty that day. A Pan American ticket clerk said men carrying briefcases identical to those found had arrived from Tripoli with tickets to Belgrade: one aboard Libyan Arab Airlines and two aboard Alitalia.
The clerk said that after a heated discussion the men asked him to give them seats for Beirut instead of Belgrade. He said his suspicions were aroused when they refused to use the ongoing portions of their tickets but instead changed money and bought new tickets. He thus had no way of checking whether the Arab names they gave were correct. They identified themselves as Jordanians. However, the clerk was able to give police an accurate description of the men. Since there are four briefcases and only three suspects, police say another man may be involved.
Meanwhile, in Rome, police have arrested a second Italian citizen in connection with the bomb destruction of much of an oil trans-shipment center at Trieste last Aug. The man is a 33-year-old art restorer, Pierluigi Manetti. He has no police record and his only known connection with the case, according to police sources, is that his name was found in the address book of a suspected Black September member recently arrested in Paris in the course of a murder investigation.
The other Italian arrested in connection with the case is Ludovico Codella, whose name also was in the diary and was mentioned by a French woman who also is undergoing questioning.