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Dead Leader’s Body Re-Examined For Identity Check

April 29, 1988

ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ The body of a man believed to be the leader of an Armenian terrorist group was re-examined Friday to settle questions about his identity.

Police said Agop Agopian, leader of the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia, was gunned down in front of his suburban Athens home before dawn Thursday. The government said it didn’t know Agopian had been living in Greece.

Agopian had posed as a Lebanese businessman and carried a South Yemeni diplomatic passport. He first was identified as Abdul Mohammed Kasim - the name on his passport - and later as Henri Titizian.

″Authorities in Greece didn’t know the real identity of the victim,″ government spokesman Sotiris Kostopoulos said.

The government also announced that Premier Andreas Papandreou was cutting short a visit to Italy because of the killing.

Coroner Christos Lefkides conducted a second autopsy after police received calls from Armenian groups here claiming that Agopian had been killed during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

″I was told to look for a scar and I found a big one on the outside of his left knee. It was several years old and may have been caused by a bullet,″ Lefkides said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Agopian reportedly was wounded in the legs during a 1976 assassination attempt in Lebanon.

The dead man’s wife, identified as Janil Titizian, told investigators Thursday her husband was Agopian. Reports from Paris also claimed the victim was Agopian and theorized he was killed by a rival Armenian terrorist group.

In Beirut, the Armenian Secret Army identified the dead man as Minas Ohannissian, who was also known as Agop Agopian. The group said Agopian was fired from the organization at the end of 1987.

The guerrilla organization accused Turkey of masterminding Agopian’s assassination.

″This act has been done by imperialist powers and their fascist ally, Turkey,″ the group said a typewritten statement.

″Despite his dismissal, it is our duty to investigate his assassination and bring the culprits to account,″ the statement said.

Agopian’s group has claimed more than 60 attacks against Turkish targets, including 30 killings of Turkish diplomats and dependents in the United States and Europe.

Agopian was killed by a gunman who pumped four slugs into his head and chest from a sawed-off shotgun. The attack occurred at 4:30 a.m. while he was waiting for a taxi to take him to Athens Airport for a flight to Belgrade.

A police source said Mrs. Titizian was back in the couple’s apartment in the Old Phaleron suburb with her 2-month old baby, and a police guard.

Western diplomatic sources, speaking on condition they not be identified further, said members of Agopian’s group moved freely in and out of Athens, where the organization’s political wing, the Armenian Popular Movement, is based.

The sources said the terrorist group had been dormant since 1984 but operated training installations in South Yemen.

Founded by Agopian in 1975, it seeks the foundation of an independent Armenian state in eastern Turkey and vengeance for what it claims was the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915-16.

Turkish officials say 300,000 Armenians died in the deportation of the country’s Armenian community to Syria. Independent historians say 600,000 Armenians died on the journey.

Agopian dropped out of sight after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, but resurfaced in 1983 to mastermind a bomb attack on the Turkish Airlines desk at Orly Airport Paris that killed eight people and wounded 56.

Agopian’s former No. 2 man, American archaeologist Monte Melkonian, formed a splinter group called ASALA-Revolutionary Movement after the Orly attack, claiming Agopian’s group had abandoned its policy of focusing only on Turkish targets.

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