Special Operations forces capture hijacker of Achille Lauro

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

The United States has captured the architect of the 1985 piracy of an Italian cruiser in which a U.S. national was killed.

Mohammed Abul Abbas, head of the Palestine Liberation Front, was captured by U.S. special operations forces during a raid on late Monday in Baghdad. Abul Abbas, for years harbored by the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, led an attack on the Italian cruiser Achille Lauro in 1985 in which a U.S. national was killed.

The U.S. force also captured Abul Abbas aides, weapons and documents during the raid in Baghdad, Middle East Newsline reported. The aides were not immediately identified.

In 1986, Abul Abbas, 62 and a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's Executive Committee, was convicted in absentia by an Italian court and sentenced to life imprisonment. He never served his sentence.

Abul Abbas's faction also led a coastal raid on the Israeli city of Tel Aviv in 1990 that targeted the U.S. embassy. After the raid, the Reagan administration suspended negotiations with the PLO. Abul Abbas, who was on the PLO's Executive Committee from 1984 until 1991, was allowed to return to the Gaza Strip to attend PLO sessions in 1996 and 1998.

In 1998, Abul Abbas was invited by Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat to settle in the Gaza Strip. Abul Abbas established his insurgency group in the Palestinian terrorities and promoted the Saddam regime, but left for Baghdad the following year.

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