NEW YORK (Aug. 7)
Authorities in Peru are holding three men identified as members of the Abu Nidal terrorist organization, who allegedly planned to attack Jewish and Israeli institutions in that country.
Police in Lima said the group’s leader, identified as Hocine Bouzidi, is reported to have planned the November 1985 hijacking of an Egyptair jetliner to Malta. An Israeli woman was among the many people killed in that hijacking.
An Interpol report also named Bouzidi as having planned the December 1985 terrorist attacks at the El Al counters of the Rome and Vienna airports.
According to Manuel Tenenbaum, director of the Latin American branch of the World Jewish Congress in Buenos Aires, Peruvian authorities arrested the three men July 30 after documents were found that showed the men were keeping several buildings in Lima under surveillance, including the United States consulate, the Israeli embassy, the main synagogue and an Israeli-owned travel agency, known as Shalom.
In addition, police said the men had also targeted the embassies of Great Britain, Belgium and Colombia, as well as the Lima office of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The three men being held were identified as Bouzidi, 36, who carried Algerian identification papers; Mohamad Abed, 19, also identified as Mohamed Abed Abdelrahman Ibrahim, holding Egyptian papers; and Ahmed (also reported as Amman) Assad Mohamad, also 19, who held Lebanese papers.
Police in Lima said the men had been in Peru several months.
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The men were reportedly establishing contact with the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) terrorist group, which has for several years been trying to overthrow the Peruvian government by force.
The PLO maintains an office in Lima and has been largely welcomed in Peru.
The PLO office said the men had come to attack PLO representatives, and disclaimed links to the group.
Peruvian President Alan Garcia is reportedly ready to cooperate with any government wishing to extradite the men.
However, Peru indicated it might expel the men anyway if no country requested their extradition.
The Austrian Embassy in Washington said it was aware of the case and believed Bouzidi may have been the mastermind behind the airport attack. It was looking into whether Austria was requesting Bouzidi’s extradition.
In Washington, a U.S. Justice Department spokesman said Tuesday that as far as he knew, there were no outstanding warrants for any of the men.
Last week the Israeli embassy in Lima issued a statement thanking Peruvian authorities.
The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith has urged the Peruvian government to “reconsider” its policy of permitting the PLO to maintain an office in Peru as a result of the arrests. The ADL presented a letter to Peruvian Ambassador Cesar Atala on Aug. 2, congratulating Peruvian authorities for the arrests.