Hundreds Die as Feud Rips Apart Infamous Terrorist Organizaton
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) _ The Palestinian group run by terror mastermind Abu Nidal has been split by a bloody feud that has killed at least 200 members, senior PLO officials say.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said more than 300 of Abu Nidal’s Fatah-Revolutionary Council have fled in fear from his main base in Libya to Algeria, Tunisia and Lebanon.
Those who fled and many of those killed are believed to be dissidents upset with Abu Nidal’s management of the organization and the direction of the group. The dissidents hiding out in Algiers include some of Abu Nidal’s closest former aides, including Atef Abu Bakr, his spokesman since 1986; and Abdul-Rahman Issa, a member of the 10-man politburo that ran Fatah- Revolutionary Council, the sources said in interviews.
Most of the killings occurred in Lebanon, where Abu Nidal loyalists have killed 152 of their adversaries this year.
Twenty other dissidents were gunned down in Palestinian refugee camps in Syria, the PLO officials said.
Twenty-two of the group’s leading figures were gunned down at Abu Nidal’s home in a compound used as a training base on the outskirts of Tripoli, the Libyan capital, the sources reported.
Abu Nidal’s real name is Sabri al-Banna. He split with Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization in the early 1970s. His group is not part of the PLO.
In 1985 and 1986, Abu Nidal’s gunmen carried out at least 12 attacks around the world, killing 115 people and wounding 500. These included the November 1985 hijacking of an Egyptian airliner to Malta in which 59 people were killed.
The group is responsible for the Rome and Vienna airport massacres of Dec. 27, 1985, that killed 20 people.
His guerrillas also were held responsible for commandeering a Pan Am jet on Sept. 5 at the airport in Karachi, Pakistan. The terrorists opened fire inside the aircraft, killing 20 people.
Among the Abu Nidal members killed in the feud were politburo members slain in Libya late last year and buried in the backyard of Abu Nidal’s home by bodyguards who poured tons of cement over the bodies, the sources said.
They included Mustafa Murad, who used the codename Abu Nizar and had been Abu Nidal’s right-hand man since 1973; and Haj Abu Mousa, the group’s chief instructor.
Abu Mousa was popular among Fatah-Revolutionary Council’s young recruits and his assassination apparently prompted most of the defections, the sources said.
The PLO officials said the trouble began in October 1987, when some Fatah- Revolutionary Council guerrillas mutinied.
The officials quoted dissidents as saying ″an air of disappointment″ prevailed among Abu Nidal’s men in Lebanon after he allied with the Iranians and the Tehran-backed Shiite Moslem fundamentalist Hezbollah, or Party of God, in 1985.
″No explanation was offered as to how a Communist, supposedly committed to Maoism, found common ground for an alliance with Moslem fundamentalists,″ one official said.
They cited ″financial corruption, internal differences and regional alliances″ as the main cause of the mutiny.
″He’s tried in vain in recent months to reorganize the group, recruit new members from the Syrian and Libyan intelligence services. But no one wants to follow a loser,″ a Palestinian official said from Tunis.
Abu Nidal, 52, has dissolved Fatah-Revolutionary Council’s politburo and assumed full control of the movement, appointing Majed Atta, his niece’s husband, as his deputy, the sources said.