US embassy cable - 85STATE394785

PAPER ON THE ABU NIDAL GROUP

Identifier: 85STATE394785
Wikileaks: View 85STATE394785 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Secretary of State
Created: 1985-12-31 23:09:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: PTER XG XF
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
O 312309Z DEC 85
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO ALL NEAR EASTERN AND SOUTH ASIAN DIPLOMATIC POSTS IMMEDIATE
ALL EUROPEAN DIPLOMATIC POSTS
UNCLAS STATE 394785 
 
TERREP 
 
E.O. 12356:   N/A 
TAGS:         PTER, XG, XF 
SUBJECT:      PAPER ON THE ABU NIDAL GROUP 
 
1.  HERE FOR POSTS USE WITH PRESS AND MEDIA IS AN 
UNCLASSIFIED PAPER ON THE ABU NIDAL GROUP WHICH WAS MADE 
AVAILABLE AT THE DECEMBER 31, 1985 STATE DEPARTMENT NOON 
PRESS BRIEFING. 
 
BEGIN TEXT. 
 
THE ABU NIDAL GROUP 
 
INTRODUCTION 
 
THE ABU NIDAL GROUP IS AMONG THE MOST DANGEROUS OF THE 
MIDDLE EASTERN TERRORIST ORGANIZATIONS.  IT IS PROBABLY 
THE BEST ORGANIZED AND MOST EFFECTIVE OF THE RADICAL 
PALESTINIAN TERRORIST GROUPS, CAREFULLY PLANNING ITS 
OPERATIONS AND KEEPING ITS INFORMATION TIGHTLY 
COMPARTMENTED. 
 
THE GROUP HAS REPEATEDLY DEMONSTRATED ITS ABILITY TO 
OPERATE IN ANY COUNTRY IT CHOOSES.  IT HAS STAGED ATTACKS 
IN OVER 20 COUNTRIES ON THREE CONTINENTS, AND OPERATES 
THROUGHOUT THE MIDDLE EAST. 
 
ABU NIDAL HAS CONDUCTED OVER 60 TERRORIST ATTACKS DURING 
THE LAST EIGHT YEARS--AT LEAST 30 OF THEM SINCE THE 
BEGINNING OF 1984.  TWO-THIRDS OF THE GROUP'S NEARLY 20 
ATTACKS THIS YEAR HAVE TAKEN PLACE IN WESTERN EUROPE, AS 
INNOCENT BYSTANDERS INCREASINGLY HAVE BECOME CASUALTIES 
OF THE GROUP'S ASSAULTS: 
 
--THE SIMULTANEOUS ATTACKS ON AIRLINE OFFICES IN ROME AND 
VIENNA ON DECEMBER 27, WHICH HAVE THE HALLMARKS OF ABU 
NIDAL, LEFT MORE THAN A DOZEN DEAD' INCLUDING 5 AMERICANS. 
 
--THE EGYPT AIR HIJACKING IN LATE NOVEMBER ULTIMATELY 
COST THE LIVES OF 59 PASSENGERS 
 
--THE GROUP BOMBED THE BRITISH AIR OFFICE IN ROME IN 
SEPTEMBER INJURING 15 PERSONS, MANY OF THEM PASSERSBY. 
 
--ABU NIDAL MEMBERS THREW GRENADES AT ROME'S CAFE DE 
PARIS IN SEPTEMBER, INJURING 38 TOURISTS--AMONG THEM 
AMERICANS, GERMANS, BRITONS, ITALIANS, ARGENTINES, AND 
BRAZILIANS. 
 
--THE GROUP BOMBED TWO HOTELS IN ATHENS, ONE IN SEPTEMBER 
THAT INJURED 19, MOSTLY BRITISH TOURISTS, AND ONE IN 
AUGUST THAT INJURED 13 BRITONS. 
 
--IN SPAIN, ABU NIDAL ATTACKS IN JULY AT THE BRITISH AIR 
OFFICE AND THE NEARBY ALIA TICKET OFFICE KILLED ONE AND 
WOUNDED 24 CUSTOMERS AND EMPLOYEES. 
 
--ALSO IN JULY THE GROUP WAS PROBABLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE 
BOMBING OF TWO RESTAURANTS IN KUWAIT, KILLING EIGHT AND 
INJURING ALMOST 90. 
 
--IN APRIL, AN ABU NIDAL TERRORIST FIRED A ROCKET AT A 
JORDANIAN AIRLINER AS IT WAS TAKING OFF FROM ATHENS 
AIRPORT.  THE ROCKET HIT THE PLANE BUT DID NOT EXPLODE. 
HUNDREDS OF CASUALTIES MIGHT HAVE RESULTED HAD THE 
OPERATION BEEN SUCCESSFUL. 
 
THE OFFICIAL NAME OF THE ABU NIDAL ORGANIZATION IS "FATAH 
- REVOLUTIONARY COUNCIL", WHICH IT USUALLY EMPLOYS WHEN 
ATTACKING ISRAELI TARGETS.  BUT IT HAS EMPLOYED A NUMBER 
OF COVER NAMES FOR ITS OPERATIONS.   ORIGINALLY THE GROUP 
OPERATED UNDER THE NAME BLACK JUNE; MORE RECENTLY, THE 
GROUP HAS USED THE NAME ARAB REVOLUTIONARY BRIGADES WHEN 
IT STAGED ATTACKS AGAINST PERSIAN GULF TARGETS.  IT ALSO 
ACTS AS BLACK SEPTEMBER WHEN IT ATTACKS JORDANIAN AND 
PALESTINIAN TARGETS AND EMPLOYS THE NAME REVOLUTIONARY 
ORGANIZATION OF SOCIALIST MOSLEMS (ROSM) AS ITS SIGNATURE 
FOR ATTACKS AGAINST BRITISH TARGETS.  IT ADDED EGYPTIAN 
NOMENCLATURES WHEN IT HIJACKED THE EGYPTAIR PLANE IN 
NOVEMBER. 
 
BACKGROUND 
 
THE GROUP IS HEADED BY SABRI AL-BANNA (WHO USES THE NOM 
DE GUERRE ABU NIDAL), GREW OUT OF ELEMENTS THAT BROKE 
AWAY A DECADE AGO FROM PLO CHAIRMAN ARAFAT'S FATAH 
ORGANIZATION.  THE GROUP IS COMMITTED TO THE USE OF 
VIOLENCE TO DESTROY DIPLOMATIC EFFORTS DESIGNED TO 
RECONCILE ISRAEL AND THE ARAB STATES, ESPECIALLY THOSE 
MOUNTED EARLIER THIS YEAR BY KING HUSSEIN AND ARAFAT'S 
PLO.  THE ABU NIDAL GROUP ALSO CALLS FOR THE DESTRUCTION 
OF RULING "REACTIONARY" REGIMES SUCH AS JORDAN, EGYPT, 
AND THE PERSIAN GULF STATES AND IS CRITICAL OF WHAT IT 
SEES AS ARAFAT'S AND THE PLO'S MODERATION AND LACK OF 
REVOLUTIONARY BASE AND ZEAL.  CONSEQUENTLY THE GROUP 
CONTENDS THAT BOTH INTER-ARAB AND INTRA-PALESTINIAN 
TERRORISM ARE NEEDED TO FORCE THE ALL-EMBRACING ARAB 
REVOLUTION WHICH IN TURN WOULD LEAD TO THE LIBERATION OF 
PALESTINE. 
 
THE GROUP WAS FORMED IN 1974 AFTER ARAFAT INSTITUTED A 
BAN ON PLO INVOLVEMENT WITH INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM 
OUTSIDE ISRAEL AND THE OCCUPIED TERRITORIES.  ABU NIDAL'S 
RADICAL VIEWS FOUND FAVOR AT THE TIME WITH THE IRAQI 
REGIME, WHICH HELPED HIM CREATE THE ORGANIZATION THAT ABU 
NIDAL CALLED "FATAH - THE REVOLUTIONARY COUNCIL" TO 
PROMOTE HIS CLAIM THAT HIS ORGANIZATION, RATHER THAN THE 
ONE LED BY ARAFAT, WAS THE LEGITIMATE FATAH.  HE HAS 
SIMILARLY DUPLICATED OTHER FATAH ORGANIZATIONAL TITLES TO 
SUGGEST A PARALLEL STRUCTURE WITH THE ORIGINAL. 
 
BEGINNING IN THE EARLY 1980S, BAGHDAD SUPPRESSED 
ACTIVITIES OF THE ABU NIDAL GROUP OUT OF IRAQ.  ELEMENTS 
OF THE GROUP THEN MOVED TO DAMASCUS.  SINCE EARLY 1984, 
LIBYA BEGAN TO PROVIDE INCREASED SUPPORT TO THE GROUP AND 
ABU NIDAL HIMSELF AND MANY OF THE GROUPS OPERATIONS MAY 
HAVE MOVED THERE WITHIN THE LAST 12 MONTHS. 
 
THE GROUP PROBABLY HAS SEVERAL HUNDRED MEMBERS ALTHOUGH 
AN ACCURATE COUNT IS DIFFICULT.  WE BELIEVE THE GROUP HAS 
A NUMBER OF CELLS THROUGHOUT WESTERN EUROPE AND THE 
MIDDLE EAST, AND MAKES USE OF THE LARGE NUMBER OF 
PALESTINIAN STUDENTS STUDYING ABROAD, SOMETIMES INVOLVING 
THEM IN OPERATIONS AFTER ONLY PERFUNCTORY TRAINING. 
THESE NEW RECRUITS FOR EXAMPLE, WERE INVOLVED IN THE FIVE 
GRENADE ATTACKS STAGED BY THE GROUP IN 1985. 
 
CURRENT OPERATIONS AND TRENDS 
 
BASED ON THE STYLE OF ABU NIDAL ATTACKS IT IS EVIDENT 
THAT THE GROUP IS WILLING TO CAUSE INDISCRIMINATE 
CASUALTIES.  APART FROM ASSASSINATIONS OF PARTICULAR 
INDIVIDUALS, ABU NIDAL OPERATIONS THROUGH NOVEMBER 1985 
RESULTED IN NEARLY 70 DEATHS AND 201 WOUNDED AMONG 
INNOCENT BYSTANDERS--AND THE NUMBER COULD HAVE BEEN MUCH 
HIGHER IF THE JORDANIAN AIRLINER ATTACK IN ATHENS HAD 
BEEN SUCCESSFUL.  IN THE PREVIOUS YEAR, 111 DIED IN THE 
CRASH OF A GULF AIR JET ON WHICH AN ABU NIDAL BOMB MAY 
HAVE EXPLODED. 
 
THE ABU NIDAL GROUP HAS CONCENTRATED ON ATTACKING 
JORDANIAN INTERESTS SINCE 1984.  THESE ATTACKS WERE 
PROVOKED BY THE JORDANIAN AGREEMENT TO HOST THE PNC 
MEETING IN NOVEMBER 1984 AND KING HUSSEIN'S FEBRUARY 
ACCORD WITH ARAFAT TO RESTART THE STALLED MIDDLE EAST 
PEACE PROCESS.  ABU NIDAL OPERATIVES ARE THOUGHT TO HAVE 
ASSASSINATED FORMER WEST BANK MAYOR AND PALESTINIAN 
MODERATE FAHD QAWASMEH IN DECEMBER 1984 SHORTLY AFTER HIS 
ELECTION TO THE PLO EXECUTIVE COUNCIL.  THE 
ANTI-JORDANIAN/PLO CAMPAIGN HAS NOT ABATED.  AS LONG AS 
JORDANIAN AND PLO EFFORTS TOWARD MIDDLE EAST PEACE 
NEGOTIATIONS CONTINUE, ATTACKS AGAINST BOTH JORDANIAN AND 
PALESTINIAN TARGETS PROBABLY WILL ALSO CONTINUE. 
ASIDE FROM THE ATTACK ON ALIA OFFICES IN MADRID IN JULY 
AND THE ATTEMPT TO DOWN A JORDANIAN AIRLINER OVER ATHENS 
IN APRIL, OTHER INCIDENTS INVOLVING JORDANIAN TARGETS IN 
1985 HAVE INCLUDED: 
 
--THE NOVEMBER 24 ASSASSINATION OF A PALESTINIAN IN AMMAN. 
 
--THE MURDER OF A JORDANIAN PUBLISHER IN ATHENS IN 
SEPTEMBER 
 
--A PLOT TO ASSASSINATE THE JORDANIAN AMBASSADOR TO 
GREECE IN AUGUST. 
 
--THE MURDER OF A JORDANIAN DIPLOMAT IN ANKARA ON JULY 24. 
 
--A ROCKET ATTACK ON THE JORDANIAN EMBASSY IN ROME IN 
APRIL' 
 
THE GROUP HAS ALSO TARGETED BRITISH INTERESTS.  ROSM 
CLAIMED RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE KIDNAPPING IN MARCH 1985 
OF A BRITISH JOURNALIST IN LEBANON AND THE ASSASSINATION 
OF BRITISH DIPLOMATS IN INDIA AND GREECE IN 1984.  THE 
PURPOSE OF THE ATTACKS PROBABLY IS TO FORCE THE UK TO 
RELEASE GROUP MEMBERS IMPRISONED FOR THE ATTEMPTED 
ASSASSINATION OF THE ISRAELI AMBASSADOR IN LONDON IN JUNE 
1982. 
 
EVEN BEFORE THE RECENT ATTACKS ON VIENNA AND ROME 
AIRPORTS, ABU NIDAL HAD BEGUN TO CONCENTRATE HIS FIELD OF 
OPERATIONS IN WESTERN EUROPE'  ALTHOUGH HIS TARGETS HAVE 
BEEN HIS USUAL ENEMIES, E'G' BRITISH, ISRAELI, MODERATE 
ARAB, HE HAS BECOME VERY INDISCRIMINATE ABOUT INJURING 
BYSTANDERS. THE RELATIVELY RELAXED CONTROLS IN WESTERN 
EUROPEAN COUNTRIES HAS BEEN CONDUCIVE TO HIS OPERATIONS 
THERE.  THE PATTERN OF CONCENTRATING HIS EFFORTS IN 
EUROPE HAS COINCIDED WITH THE STRENGTHENING OF HIS LINKS 
WITH LIBYA. THE LIKELIHOOD OF LIBYAN FINANCING, 
SAFEHAVEN, AND LOGISTICAL ASSISTANCE SHOULD BE VERY 
HELPFUL TO HIS FUTURE INTERNATIONAL TERRORIST OPERATIONS. 
 
END TEXT. 
 
 
WHITEHEAD 

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