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Police Trying to Find Leader of Terrorists Who Attacked Vienna Airport

January 10, 1986
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Austrian police are trying to track down the alleged leader of the three-man terrorist gang that attacked the El Al counter at Vienna airport December 27, killing two persons and wounding 29.

One of the three was killed and two were wounded and captured after a police chase. But the “fourth man,” said to have given the others their orders, is at large. According to a television report today, the authorities are in possession of a forged Tunisian passport in the name of Ali Ben Bechim, 28, bearing a photograph of the wanted terrorist.

Inquiries have established that he entered Austria on December 22, travelling from Damascus via Budapest. He spent the following days at various hotels in Vienna and gave the others their instructions only hours before the airport attack.

The four terrorists who simultaneously attacked El Al passenger facilities at Rome airport also carried forged Tunisian passports. They are believed to have been provided by Libya which recently expelled Tunisian workers and seized their passports.

But Foreign Minister Leopold Gratz reiterated today that Austria will not join the United States in economic sanctions against Libya, announced by President Reagan Tuesday night. Nevertheless, Austrian authorities are trying to close loopholes that have allowed terrorists unrestricted entry into the country. Gratz said that citizens of certain countries he did not name will in the future be required to apply for a visa before entering Austria. The new rule will apply also to diplomats from those countries. Austria and Tunisia have in the past waived visa requirements to allow for the free movement of tourists between the two countries.

Foreign Ministry sources said they intend to cut down the size of the large Libyan Peoples Bureau which serves the function of an Embassy in Vienna. Critics have repeatedly maintained that the size of that representation was out of proportion with the scope of Austrian-Libyan relations. Recently, a shipment of weapons intended for the Libyan Bureau was halted by Vienna police.

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