TEL AVIV (Jun. 17)
Israel closed its border this morning to all personnel of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIEIL), following the arrest of a high-ranking Nigerian army officer who, according to police, was smuggling a small arsenal of weapons and explosives to a Palestine Liberation Organization agent in Jerusalem. The officer, Lt. Col. Alfred Gom, who serves as Manpower and Information Officer at UNIFIL headquarters, was remanded in custody for 15 days by a Jerusalem magistrate. He has refused any comment and asked for legal counsel by the UNIFIL legal officer.
A spokesman for UNIFIL said today that the matter is entirely in the hands of the Israeli authorities. He observed that among the 12,000 soldiers attached to UNIFIL there are some “rotten apples” but this should not cause friction between UNIFIL soldiers and Israelis.
Gom was the second UNIFIL officer arrested this year for alleged arms smuggling to terrorists. Last February, a Senegalese Captain was arrested for delivering an arms cache concealed in the spare tire of his car to a PLO agent near Acre. Senegalese personnel have been barred from Israel since then.
Gom, who crossed the border into Israel Friday, was detected as a result of a highway accident at Babel Wad midway between the coastal plain and Jerusalem. His car hit a private car driven by a woman who was injured and hospitalized. Police immediately inspected Gom’s car to ascertain if it was in good running order, a routine required in any highway accident that causes injuries.
2 VALISES, CRAMMED
According to police, two valises in the trunk compartment were crammed with weapons and explosives wrapped in red cloth. Police said the cache consisted of 30 demolition bricks of a combined weight of 15 kilograms; 70 gelignite “fingers,” weighing seven kilograms; 60 detonators; two Italian-made Baretta submachineguns; ten American-made hand grenades; one Kalashinkoff assault rifle and many magazines of ammunition.
Police said Gom at first denied any knowledge of the arsenal but later confessed that he had received the two valises from a PLO agent in Lebanon for delivery to a PLO contact-man in Jerusalem. The police have imposed a news blackout on the investigation but it is assumed that several more arrests will be made. An Army spokesman said the fact that a UNIFIL officer served as a delivery man for the PLO was a very serious violation of the confidence Israel has placed in UNIFIL officers. Gen. Avigdor Ben-Gal, commander of the northern legion, ordered the border closed to UNIFIL personnel until adequate measures after taken to prevent a recurrence of such incidents. The Cabinet decided late today to reopen the border to UNIFIL.