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Notorious Abu Abbas Captured - 2003-04-16


The convicted mastermind of the 1985 hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro has been captured by U.S. forces in Baghdad. Brian Purchia has more.

Italy says it plans to seek the extradition of Palestinian terrorist Abu Abbas, who was convicted in absentia by an Italian court and sentenced to five life prison terms for planning of the 1995 hijacking and murder of an American aboard the Achille Lauro.

The Palestinian Authority says the arrest violates the 1995 interim peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, which was also signed by the United States. Chief Palestinian Negotiator and cabinet minister Saeb Erekat (SAH-EHB eh-rah-KAHT).

SAEB EREKAT, CHIEF PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATOR AND CABINET MINISTER
"I have contacted the American administration this morning and I urge the American administration to honor and respect agreements signed."

Mr. Erekat said that under the deal, no PLO officials were to be arrested for violent acts committed before the 1993 Oslo peace accord was signed. A State Department Spokesman, Phil Reeker said Wednesday that with regard to Abu Abbas, the U.S. is not a party to the 1995 interim peace agreement or any other amnesty arrangement as it relates to the capture of the wanted terrorist.

U.S. troops captured Abbas Monday in a raid of a house on the outskirts of Baghdad. U.S. Defense officials say Special Operation troops, working on tips from U.S. intelligence sources raided several sites around the city. They captured a number of Abbas's associates and seized weapons and documents. Marine Major Stewart Upton, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command.

MARINE MAJOR STEWART UPTON, SPOKESMAN FOR U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND
"Finding and apprehending Abu Abbas means a couple of things. First it shows that terrorists saw Iraq as a safe haven, a place to live. Secondly, something else we have found and we've been seeing all along, Iraq shows that they have been seen as a location and have been permitted to conduct terrorist training camps as well.”

Abu Abbas is believed to have lived most of the past 17 years in Iraq where he was allegedly active in training Palestinian militants in a camp that was run by his group -- the Palestinian Liberation Front.

BRIGADIER GENERAL VINCENT BROOKS U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND
“Abu Abbas is a terrorist. He was a terrorist. He remains a terrorist. He will be viewed as such. Notwithstanding any declarations that have been made in recent years, his role in terrorism, his links with terrorist organizations are abundantly clear.”

It is believed that the Palestinian Liberation Front was involved in transferring money from Saddam Hussein to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.

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