PARIS (Jan. 13)
Two Arab terrorist groups claimed credit for a bazooka attack at Orly Airport this afternoon apparently aimed at an El Al plane in take-off. The shells struck a parked Yugoslavian Airliner injuring five crew members, the only persons aboard at the time. The terrorists escaped in a white car which was later found abandoned south of Paris. The El Al jet was not hit.
An anonymous caller told the Paris bureau of Reuters news agency that “the bomb was for El Al. Next time we will succeed.” He identified himself as a member of the “Mohammed Boudia Commando,” a terrorist organization named after an Algerian exile who died in Paris when a bomb exploded in his car in June, 1973.
But a spokesman for the Black September terrorist group said later that its members had fired at the El Al plane in retaliation for the recent Israeli commando attack on Palestine Liberation Organization headquarters in Beirut. The PLO office in Paris, however, denied any connection with the Orly attack.
Still another possibility was suggested by Radio France and Europe One radio stations which claimed that the bazooka attack may have been aimed against the Yugoslavian plane by members of Ustachi, an organization of rightwing, anti-Tito Yugoslavians responsible for numerous terrorist acts against the Belgrade regime. An entire side of the Yugoslavian plane, a DC-9, was ripped open by the shells.
POLICE VERSION OF ATTACK
But all accounts indicated that the El Al plane was indeed the terrorists’ target. The El Al pilot said he accelerated when he heard the first shell explode. This action may have saved his aircraft.
According to police, the two unidentified men arrived at Orly shortly before 12:30 p.m. local time, the take-off time of the El Al jet. They set up a bazooka in front of the terrace between the two main airport buildings where visitors can watch arriving and departing planes. The runway is no more than 400 yards from the terrace at that point. The two men waited near their car until the El Al plane was closest and fired two shells.
The Yugoslavian plane, which had just discharged passengers from Zagreb and was preparing to embark new passengers for a flight to Belgrade scheduled to depart at 12:50 p.m., was parked only 150 yards from the terrace. Crew members of the Yugoslavian plane said they saw two men race for their car as soon as the shells were fired and speed off in the direction of Paris. One of the men dropped a pistol as he fled.
YARIV CALLS FOR VIGILANCE
(In Jerusalem, Information Minister Aharon Yariv, commenting on today’s attack, said this was apparently “Yasir Arafat’s olive branch,” a reference to the PLO terrorist chief’s statement at the UN General Assembly. Yariv recalled that only a few weeks ago Arafat had met with French Foreign Minister Jean Sauvagnargues and now his henchmen had taken credit for the attack. The Information Minister called for vigilance in international air security operations.)