PARIS (Jun. 8)
Israel has flatly denied any connection with the murder of a top Palestinian security official in Paris early Monday.
The chief of Israel’s military intelligence in Tel Aviv, Maj. Gen. Uri Saguy, rejected the charge by Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat that Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, was responsible for the death of the PLO’s deputy security chief, Atef Bseisu.
He was gunned down outside his hotel by two unidentified men after midnight.
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir said Monday that he had no information about Bseisu’s killing but doubted any Israeli connection.
Some officials attributed the killing to a power struggle inside the PLO.
But Israeli intelligence sources are pinning the murder on Palestinian terrorist groups hostile to the PLO, and French intelligence agencies seem to agree.
They recall that an agent of the PLO’s archenemy, Abu Nidal, assassinated Bseisu’s predecessor, Abu Iyyad, in Tunis in 1991 after becoming a member of his bodyguard corps.
Bseisu, in his 40s, was a veteran terrorist who helped plan the massacre of the Israeli Olympics team in Munich in 1972. After Abu Iyyad’s assassination, he reorganized the PLO’s security system.
A MEETING WITH FRENCH OFFICIALS
Police said Bseisu returned to his hotel in Montparnasse at about 1:15 a.m. Monday after dining with friends.
As he stepped out of a car driven by a friend, he was accosted by two men, who pushed him against the car and shot three bullets into his head at point-blank range. The two men simply walked away, leaving the body on the sidewalk.
Police here were surprised that the PLO security official traveled without a bodyguard and allowed two apparently unknown men to get close to him.
Investigators are now wondering whether the assassins were indeed unknown to the victim.
Bseisu, who was born in Gaza, was travelling on a passport in the name of Atef. He was in Paris for a Monday meeting with French police officials on security matters, the Interior Ministry has confirmed.
The PLO and French security services are known to exchange information on Palestinian terrorist groups run by Abu Nidal and Ahmed Jabril.
News of the murder was announced by police at noon Monday. Shortly afterward, two anonymous telephone calls were received by a news wire agency claiming responsibility in the name of Kach, the militant anti-Arab group of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency learned, meanwhile, that the police investigation is being monitored “at the highest level.”
(JTA correspondent Hugh Orgel in Tel Aviv contributed to this report.)