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Defense Secretary Links Karachi Hijack Incident To Abu Nidal

September 10, 1986

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Abu Nidal terrorist organization seems to have been involved in last week’s attempted airliner hijacking in Pakistan, but the United States plans no immediate retaliation, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger said in a published report.

Citing ″basic intelligence sources″ he declined to identify, Weinberger said there were ″recent strong indications″ that the group played a role in the incident at the airport in Karachi, according to a report in today’s editions of The Washington Post.

″There are recent strong indications that it was an Abu Nidal activity,″ the paper quoted Weinberger as telling a group of editors and columnists. ″That doesn’t necessarily mean only Abu Nidal was involved, but seems to have been involved as far as we know.″

Nineteen people died, including two Americans, and more than 100 were hurt after four gunmen took over a parked Pan American World Airways jumbo jet Friday with about 400 people aboard. One victim of the attack has been declared brain dead.

The defense secretary said ″the willingness to shoot those who had absolutely nothing to do with anything, innocent men, women and children″ was consistent with Abu Nidal’s method of operations.

The four Arab hijackers were captured alive and are in Pakistani custody. The siege ended after the terrorists opened fire inside the plane with automatic weapons and hurled grenades at passengers.

Administration officials have said the group is based in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, and has offices in Syria and Libya. Weinberger indicated that the group’s shadowy nature complicated any effort to strike back.

″I think you have to know more about a situation of that kind. ... It’s elementary to know against whom you’re going to retaliate,″ he said. ″I just don’t think there is anything very clearly established about it.″

Abu Nidal is the nom de guerre of the organization’s founder, Sabri Banna.

A State Department official, speaking on condition he not be identified, said investigators ″have not made a firm judgment on who was behind the hijacking,″ but that the operation resembled past attacks linked to the Abu Nidal group.

As in attacks that killed more than 20 people in the Rome and Vienna airports last December and have been blamed by U.S. authorities on the Abu Nidal group, ″they were young gunslingers who don’t care who they kill″ the official said.

″He (Abu Nidal) has some experienced operatives waiting in the wings and recruits young kids, who are not well trained, to be cannon fodder,″ he said.

As evidence of the apparent inexperience of the gunmen who seized the Pan Am jet in Karachi, the official cited their apparent panic and suddent outburst of firing when the cabin lights failed.

There also is shadowy evidence that several groups were involved in the attack, the official said.

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