Gunmen Kill Man in Athens Identified as Armenian Terrorist Chief
ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ An assassination team of two masked men fired blasts from a sawed-off shotgun Thursday to kill Agop Agopian, the founder and leader of an Armenian terrorist group feared throughout the world.
Agopian, who posed as a Lebanese businessman in Athens but also carried a South Yemeni diplomatic passport, was shot outside his home in a prosperous seaside suburb.
A statement by the Ministry of Public Order said the victim’s wife, ″during questioning by security police ... said he was the leader of ASALA, Agop Agopian.″
Police identified the wife as Janil Titizian and said she told them her husband recently arrived from South Yemen and was on his way to Yugoslavia. She said he was bound for the airport when killed. ASALA, standing for the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia, has claimed numerous terrorist attacks against Turkish targets, including the July 1983 bombing of the Turkish Airlines desk at Paris’ Orly Airport which killed eight people and wounded 56.
The group seeks the foundation of an independent Armenian state in eastern Turkey.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the killing.
Agopian was killed outside his house in the Old Phaleron suburb at 4:30 a.m. (9:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday) as he waited for a taxi in the street outside his home. With him was a woman identified as his sister-in-law. She was unhurt.
According to a police spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity in accordance with Greek practice, two armed men emerged from a parked car.
One man fired at Agopian, using solid shotgun slugs, the type used in Greece for boar-hunting.
Agopian, hit with two slugs in the chest and elbow, tried to flee. The man ran after him and fired two more slugs into his head and chest.
The attackers got away in a car left parked across the street from the second-floor apartment where Agopian and his wife lived.
The victim was first identified as Abdul Mohammed Kashim, 39, from a South Yemeni diplomatic passport he was carrying.
But following reports from Paris saying the dead man was the long-sought leader of ASALA, the ministry said his wife revealed his real identity.
″He’d lived in Athens for at least a year, possibly longer, as Henri Titizian, but he traveled abroad very frequently on the Yemeni passport,″ said a police source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The source said Agopian planned to open a supermarket in Athens.
Agopian, whose name has also been given as Hagop Hagopian, was reported killed in an Israeli air raid on a Palestinian camp near Beirut during Israel’s 1982 summer invasion of Lebanon.
But there were also reports that Agopian was still alive and active in the terrorist organization he had founded, and had merely changed identities.
Armenian sources in Athens, speaking on condition of anoymity, said Agopian was born in Iraq in 1945, and that his name was most likely a pseudonym.
ASALA, founded by Agopian in 1975, claimed responsibility for more than 60 attacks on Turkish targets, including killings of around 30 Turkish diplomats and dependents in Western Europe and the United States.
Agopian ran ASALA from Beirut with funding from the Palestine Liberation Organization and leftist groups.
Besides seeking the creation of an independent Armenian state in Turkey, the Marxist-oriented organization vows to avenge a massacre by Ottoman Turks in 1915-16 that it says left 1.5 Armenians dead.
Both security police and ministry officials declined to say whether a rival Armenian group could have been responsible for killing Agopian.
The French news agency Agence France-Presse reported in Paris that Thursday’s killing may have been the work of the ASALA-Revolutionary Movement, an Armenian commando group which separated from the main organization.
The head of that group, American archaeologist Monte Melkonian, is serving a six-year term in French prison for criminal association, weapons possession and forging identity papers.
The ministry said security police were still questioning Mrs. Titizian.
A police source said Agopian ″apparently was selling off some businesses in Lebanon and was transferring his activities to Greece.″
The police spokesman said Agopian was booked on an early morning Yugoslav Airlines flight to Belgrade.