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Revolutionaries Find Scores of Arms-Laden Safe Houses and Tunnels

December 24, 1989

VIENNA, Austria (AP) _ Revolutionary soldiers found a vast labyrinth of safe houses and tunnels used by police forces loyal to Nicolae Ceausescu, some with secret entries hidden in cemetery burial vaults and subway systems.

Army officers speaking on Bucharest radio Sunday said the sprawling maze of tunnels criss-cross the city and link two airports, Communist Party headquarters and Ceausescu’s palace in downtown Bucharest.

Army units siding with pro-reform protesters have been battling Ceausescu’s secret police for control of the country. The highly trained and heavily armed security forces have been making hit-and-run guerrilla attacks, mostly at night.

The radio report went into stunning detail about the hundreds of safe houses and miles upon miles of underground tunnels stuffed with weapons.

Ceausescu’s downtown palace contained a bunker designed to resist nuclear attack and was outfitted like a war room, with sophisticated command operations, the radio said.

The tunnels also linked his so-called ″Spring Palace″ in the north of the capital and the old royal palace downtown, near the party headquarters, the radio said.

One tunnel from the party headquarters ran to a lake north of the city, apparently designed as a Ceausescu escape route.

The revolutionary government said that the Communist dictator who ruled for 24 years was captured Saturday along with his wife, Elena. On Sunday, state- run Soviet television reported that the couple was found hiding in an underground bunker. It gave no details.

The tunnels contained huge weapons caches and were designed for Ceausescu’s most loyal security troops, the radio said.

Romanian radio broadcasts monitored in Vienna have appealed repeatedly in recent days to architects involved in building the web of tunnels to divulge the layout to the army and other forces behind the revolt.

″The army found and neutralized 48 terrorists’ safe houses on just 20 streets in Bucharest,″ Bucharest radio said Sunday.

Knowledgeable Romanians said they had heard of such safe houses in the capital and in all major cities, but few imagined their size and scope.

The Soviet news agency Tass said guards had living quarters along the most frequently traveled Ceausescu routes.

Quoting informed Romanians, Tass said some ″terrorists″ under fire from the army retreated to cemeteries, where they had hideouts among burial vaults and entrances to the tunnels.

Exiled Romanian architects who apparently were involved in building the tunnels on Saturday called the U.S.-financed Radio Free Europe radio station, describing details of their layout.

″There is one linking the Baneasa and Otopeni airports,″ in northern Bucharest along three miles, an unidentified architect calling from New York told the station. The broadcast was monitored in Vienna.

Bucharest radio said a tunnel several miles long contained sophisticated monitoring equipment.

On Friday night, Ceausescu’s loyal troops hiding in a tunnel opened fire on a crowd gathered in the palace square to listen to a proclamation of the National Salvation Committee, Romania’s provisional government.

There were new reports, meanwhile, that Arab guerrillas may be taking part in the fighting for Ceausescu.

Ceausescu’s Romania for many years was one of the main training camps for Arab and African guerrillas. The dictator established cordial relations with PLO leader Yasser Arafat and Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

Knowledegable Romanians abroad told Radio Free Europe about two terrorist centers at Branesti, east of Bucharest, for Arab students and another one in a wood near the capital for senior Arab officers.

Romania has been home to some 10,000 Arab students who study petrochemistry, medicine and enigneering. Some of them also attended special courses in terrorist training, reliable sources said.

Several years ago, obsessed with his own protection, Ceausescu ″borrowed″ Arafat’s guard unit of about 50 men, Mircea Stoica, a law professor at Bucharest University, told The Associated Press after fleeing to Hungary last week.

A Romanian radio announcer Saturday appealed to army units and the population to help defend the national radio station against ″Arab troops.″

A Syrian diplomat in Budapest told Hungarian Deputy Foreign Minister Jozsef Benyi on Sunday that he did not exclude that ″Syrian citizens (students) were involved in the fight.″ Officials in Damascus denied Syrian involvement.

Bucharest radio said Romanian army took prisoner several ″Arabs,″ while killing others in gunfights around the radio building in the heart of the city in recent days.

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