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Thousands Mourn Slain Jewish Leader; Police Have No Solid Leads in Murder

Some 5,000 mourners, senior government officials and church dignitaries among them, attended the funeral of slain Jewish community leader Joseph Wybran here last Friday.

A massive police investigation has yet to yield solid clues to the murderer of Wybran, a medical doctor who was mortally wounded on Oct. 3 by a bullet fired into his head in the parking lot of Erasmus Hospital.

The authorities now tend to dismiss the claims of responsibility made by Islamic extremists and an obscure Palestinian terrorist group.

They are not ruling out, however, the possibility that Wybran was the victim of extreme right-wing Catholic terrorists, incensed over his efforts to negotiate the removal of a Carmelite convent from the grounds of the former Auschwitz death camp in Poland.

Wybran, 49, was chairman of the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Organizations in Belgium, representing the country’s 30,000 Jews.

He was the first European Jewish leader murdered since World War II. Apart from reacting with profound sadness to his death, Jews here are nervous that the murder might be the prelude to other terrorist acts against them.

Justice Minister Melchior Wathelet, one of several ministers attending the funeral, promised the Jewish community the government would “use all means to find the killers. No clue will be neglected,” he said.

So far, only a burnt-out car has been found near Erasmus Hospital, where Wybran headed the department of immunology, hematology and blood transfusions.

Police say it may be connected to the killer, but they have no proof yet.

COOPERATION WITH ISRAEL

But police investigators tagged the murder from the outset as terrorist-motivated.

That brought a claim last week from an extremist Islamic group in Beirut calling itself “Soldiers of Righteousness” that it executed Wybran because he was an agent of the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency.

The police here took that seriously for a time, because the same shadowy group also claimed credit for the murder here last March of a Saudi Arabian national who headed the Islamic Center in Brussels.

It claimed, as well, to have been the kidnappers of a Belgian doctor in Lebanon, Jan Cools, whom it accused of being a Mossad agent. Cools was released unharmed in June.

Last Thursday, Brussels newspapers received anonymous letters from an organization calling itself “Palestine Proud and Free,” which claimed to have killed the Jewish leader with the support of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The PLO office in Brussels promptly denied involvement with Wybran’s death and said allegations to the contrary were “gross provocations.”

Belgian security agencies are working with Israeli intelligence. So far, leads have been few.

Wybran was buried at the Jewish cemetery in Kraainem, near Brussels. Dignitaries at the funeral, included Justice Minister Wathelet, Foreign Minister Mark Eyskins and Cardinal Godfried Daneels, the Catholic primate of Belgium.

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