Official Says Libyan Diplomat Suspect in Bombing
Apr. 08, 1986
BERLIN (AP) _ A Libyan diplomat based in this divided city's communist zone is suspected of directing the weekend bomb attack that wrecked a crowded nightclub popular with American soldiers, a West Berlin official said Tuesday.
He confirmed a report in the Hamburg newspaper Bild that Elamin Abdullah Elamin, 47, was ''urgently suspected'' of directing the attack on the La Belle discotheque early Saturday. Two people were killed, including an American serviceman, and 230 were wounded.
''This report is correct,'' said the official of the West Berlin Interior Ministry, who is close to the investigation. He spoke on condition of anonymity.
The official would not elaborate and referred further queries to the 100- member police commission investigating the bombing.
A man who answered the telephone at the Libyan Embassy in East Berlin, capital of communist East Germany, hung up when asked for comment on the newspaper report.
Bild said a meeting of Chancellor Helmut Kohl's Cabinet on Wednesday would consider expelling two Libyan Embassy staff members it said were suspected of involvement in the disco bombing. It gave no further details, and a government spokesman said he could not confirm the report.
Dieter Piete, deputy chairman of the investigating commission, said police did not believe Elamin planted the bomb himself, ''but as to whether he is suspected as an organizer or had any other link, I will not say no.''
He refused further comment on the Bild report, saying: ''Hypothetically, if we confirmed something like this, the trail could go cold.''
''There are hints not just regarding Libyans, but to Arabs of other nationalities, Palestinians and so forth, and also to German attackers,'' he said. ''We cannot ignore any aspect.''
Sgt. Donald Banks, a U.S. Army spokesman in West Berlin, said 30 of the 63 Americans injured were still hospitalized Tuesday. He said two American soldiers were in critical condition and two U.S. civilians in serious condition, all with burns.
Those killed were Kenneth Terrance Ford, a 21-year-old Army sergeant from Detroit, Mich., and Nermine Hanay, 28, a Turkish woman living in West Berlin.
West Berlin newspapers speculated earlier this week that the bombing was committed by a foreigner who crossed from East Berlin and then returned.
Although East Germany built a wall around the communist sector in 1961 to keep its citizens from crossing into West Berlin, it does little or nothing to stop foreigners from doing so. Checks of such people on the western side are rare.
Officials in Bonn, capital of West Germany, said they had increased surveillance of the Libyan Embassy and tightened border controls.
Bild said Elamin was transferred to East Berlin last year from the embassy in Bonn.
U.S. Ambassador Richard Burt and other American officials have expressed suspicion that Libya was behind the bombing.
Libyan leader Moammar Khadafy threatened terrorist attacks on American targets around the world after the confrontation in the Gulf of Sidra two weeks ago between his forces and the U.S. 6th Fleet.
Officials of the West German Foreign Ministry refused to say whether the United States was pressing for more dramatic action against Khadafy's government, such as expelling Libyans or imposing economic or political sanctions.
A senior official in Bonn said the government was not inclined to reconsider its opposition to sanctions on the North African country.
''We have always said we cannot be wakeful or energetic enough in the fight against terrorism,'' Wolfgang Schaeuble, chief of staff in Kohl's office, said in a radio interview.
''But the position of the government remains that ... we think little of general boycott measures, because in the end they aren't efficient.''
West German security authorities have conducted periodic surveillance of the Libyan Embassy because of violent clashes between Libyan nationals living in West Germany.
Libyan emigre Gebrel el-Denali, an opponent of Khadafy, was shot to death on a busy Bonn street in April 1985. Another Libyan, Fatahi Tarhoni, was convicted of the murder.