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November 24, 1989 - Image 40

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-11-24

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

BACKGROUND

The Struggle Of Abu Nidal:
Arch-Terrorist Self-Destructs

HELEN DAVIS

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O

ne of the most
astonishing reverses
on the Middle East
battlefield is the apparent
self-destruction of Sabri al-
Banna, better known to the
world as Abu Nidal, the
most ruthless, most feared of
all Palestinian terrorist
leaders.
Over the past four months,
some 165 members of Abu
Nidal's 800-strong Fatah
Revolutionary Council
(ieRC) are reported to have
been killed, and his ongoing
purge of his movement is
said to be driven by a des-
cent into severe paranoia.

Abu Nidal's behavior
reportedly has been unstable
since 1984, but over the past
year it has undergone a seri-
ous decline. He now drinks
heavily and his mood alter-
nates dramatically between
suicidal depression and a
belief that he possesses
divine powers.
He is consumed by suspi-
cion of duplicity within the
ranks of his organization
and at one point even
suspected his wife of being a
CIA agent. He is reported to
have liquidated his entire
29-man central committee
and to have killed at least 20
senior followers with his
own hands. In addition, he
has ordered the summary
death of all who have ques-
tioned his execution orders.
The first victim of Abu
Nidal's purge was Omar
Mohmen, a senior FRC
operative, who was executed
in Kuwait. The second,
which followed shortly
afterward, was Mustapha
Murad, who had been his
deputy.
The first indication of the
scale of the internal blood-
letting came in early
September when Younis
Amran, a close aide to Abu
Nidal, called a press con-
ference in Beirut to an-
nounce the execution of 15
"spies" who allegedly had
been recruited by the
Mossad, Israel's foreign in-
telligence agency. Among
the victims, 14 men and a
woman whom he said had
been "executed inside and
outside Palestine," were two
Egyptians, an Iraqi, a
Lebanese and 11 Palesti-
nians.
A short time later, 20 of
Abu Nidal's most senior

.

. .. ........

^•,: •

-
.
Artwork from Newsday by Ned Levine. Copyright C 1989, Newsday.

Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate.

lieutenants obeyed a
summons to attend an
urgent meeting at his head-
quarters just outside the Li-
byan capital of Tripoli.
When they had gathered,
they were slaughtered.
In addition, more than 100
FRC foot-soldiers are
reported to have been exec-
uted at their military bases
in Lebanon. In one incident,
at least 40 followers were
shot dead at the Rashadiyeh
refugee camp, south of the
Lebanese port city of Tyre;
in another, 20 were killed in
Sidon, although an FRC offi-
cial later claimed they had
been the victims of an Israeli
air raid on the city.
Last weekend, the London
Sunday Times reported that
two senior defectors from
Abu Nidal's ranks, who have
now gone into hiding, along
with scores of other former
Abu Nidal loyalists, appeal-
ed to PLO leader Yassir
Arafat for protection.
In an attempt to win
Arafat's favor, the two are
reported to have provided a
graphic description of Abu
Nidal's apparent descent
into insanity, as well as a
detailed account of the struc-
ture and activities of the
FRC.
According to Abdul Issa,
one of the defectors, Abu
Nidal's psychological prob-
lems "exploded" over the
past year and he now ac-
cuses anyone who disagrees
with him of being an Israeli
or Jordanian agent.
This information has since
been passed on to Western
intelligence agencies which
had been largely unsuc-
cessful in penetrating the
shield of secrecy which in-
sured that details of Abu

Nidal's organization re-
mained behind a seemingly
impenetrable curtain.
Arafat, however, is unlike-
ly to provide the luckless
defectors with a refuge. Still
fearing Abu Nidal's threat
to his own safety — and
bitter at Abu Nidal's liqui-
dation of so many of his
closest aides (see sidebar) —
Arafat has declared private-
ly that he would not open his
ranks to men who who had
served his arch enemy so
faithfully and for so long.
Sabri al-Banna, now aged
55, was born to a wealthy
merchant family which in-
habited a home in Jaffa that
is now officially designated
as the Tel Aviv Military
Court.
He attended the Catholic
College des Freres in Jaffa,
and after Israel's victory in
the 1948 War of In-
dependence, the family mov-
ed to the West Bank town of
Nablus, which was then, as
now, the fiery cauldron of
Palestinian nationalism.
In Nablus, young Sabri
became deeply immersed in
politics and, shortly after
Israel's victory in the 1967
Six-Day War, he decided to
emigrate to Jordan, then the
center of radical Palestinian
affairs, in order to avoid
what must have seemed to
be an inevitable confronta-
tion with the Israeli security
forces.
Sabri Al-Banna not only
changed his country, he also
changed his name. He
became Abu Nidal —
"Father of the Struggle" —
caught the eye of Abu Iyad
(Salah Khalaf), now Arafat's
deputy, and quickly climbed
the leadership ladder.
In 1969, perhaps sensing

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