Vienna (Aug. 31)
Had there not been a Bar Mitzvah celebration last Saturday morning, the two Arab terrorists could have shot and killed many more persons, it was revealed here today. During police interrogation one of the two men, Mohammed Husam Radjih, said that he had carefully observed the habits of Jewish community members on Saturdays and learned that usually they leave the synagogue at 11:00 A.M. and stand in front of the building talking to each other.
Last Saturday the larger part of the 200 attending the Bar Mitzvah was still in the building when the two gunmen were already waiting for them. A passer-by
addressed one of the Palestinians who then started to shoot and throw hand grenades at the two policemen who were guarding the synagogue.
In this shoot-out and during the ensuing chase by police, two persons were killed and 18 injured, some of them gravely. The two policemen, who were themselves wounded by the terrorists, arrested the two men after one of them had been shot by the driver and bodyguard of a Jewish businessman attending the Bar Mitzvah celebration.
Radjih said during interrogation that he wanted to shoot Jews, but that he later consciously aimed at passers-by, in order to achieve the greatest possible effect. State police called the two men “cold-blooded terrorists.”
According to police, Radjih is a student of physics and mathematics in Vienna, holding an Iraqi passport. The second terrorist, using the cover name Ali Yussuf, had been living in Vienna for two months. He said that he had had an Egyptian passport but had destroyed it.
The two men said that they had not known each other before the attack. They had had instructions to meet at a certain location and start their operation. In order to recognize each other one wore a safari cap and the other one carried a red rose.
POLICE CONDUCT DRAGNET
Immediately after the terrorist attack police searched the apartments where the two men had been living. They arrested 35-year-old Moseh Al-Azhour, presumably from Syria, at Radjih’s apartment. Police suspect him of being involved in the planning of the attack.
At Yussuf’s apartment they arrested six Arab newspaper vendors who were released after interrogation. The search at Radjih’s home uncovered a large amount of Palestine Liberation Organization material, including bulletins written by the former PLO representative in Vienna, Ghazi Hussein.
Police found in Yussuf’s possession the key for a luggage locker at Vienna’s south station. In the locker they found a suitcase containing clothing and toilet articles. Police suspect that the two men, or at least Yussuf, wanted to leave Vienna for Italy or Yugoslavia.
The weapons the two terrorists used were Polish PN-63 submachine guns with the registration numbers removed. The ammunition was 9MM Makarov-type, the same kind that was used in the killing of Vienna Councilman Heinz Nittel last May. Police said that there are many different kinds of guns that this ammunition fits but that they nevertheless conducted ballistics tests to determine whether any of the weapons used Saturday had also been used in the assassination of Nittel.
Meanwhile, the exact political background of the two gunmen remains unknown. During the actual attack the killers shouted “PLO” and flashed victory signs. Yussuf has since his capture refused to say anything. Radjih said he was a member of the extremist splinter Palestinian group Al Asifa which is headed by Abu Nidal. The same group claimed responsibility for killing Nittel and later threatened the life of Chancellor Bruno Kreisky.
Israel’s Ambassador to Vienna, Yissachar Ben-Yaacov, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that Israel does not distinguish between the various terrorist groups and emphasized that Israel holds the PLO responsible for Arab terror. He dismissed the PLO’s statement denying that they were involved in Saturday’s terrorist attack and said this denial must be viewed in the light of the PLO policy of trying to destroy Israel.
Kreisky told reporters in West Germany where he is vacationing that he did not think the PLO was involved in the attack and that other groups were responsible. He said these groups are the same that are trying to block the PLO’s participation in Middle East peace talks. Austria’s conservative opposition criticized Kreisky’s involvement in Mideast politics, saying that he was responsible for Mideast terror being transferred to Austria.
Meanwhile, Mayor Teddy Kollek of Jerusalem wrote to the mayor of Vienna thanking him for the brave action taken by Vienna police in apprehending the terrorists and preventing what could have been a bloodbath.