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Pentagon Considers Legal Issues in Capture and Custody of Abu Abbas - 2003-04-16


The Defense Department says it is looking into the legal issues involved in the capture of Palestinian terrorist leader Abu Abbas in Baghdad.

Chief Pentagon spokesperson Victoria Clarke says defense officials are considering what to do with Abu Abbas. But she indicates there are no plans at this time to transfer him to the U.S. Navy Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where terrorist detainees from Afghanistan are held.

Responding to questions, Ms. Clarke linked the capture of Abu Abbas to the main objectives of Operation Iraqi Freedom. "One of them is to root out the terrorists that have found sanction and harbor in Iraq," she said. "And clearly, this is a piece of that."

Abu Abbas was leader of the Palestine Liberation Front and the mastermind of the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro. An elderly, wheelchair-bound American was killed in the incident and his body thrown overboard.

Italy says it plans to seek Abbas' extradition. But Palestinian officials are demanding his release, saying his arrest violates an accord between Israel and the Palestinians granting amnesty for violent acts prior to 1993.

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