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Terrorist Abul Abbas Captured in Baghdad

Terrorist Abul Abbas Captured in Baghdad

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Abu Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian group that killed an American on the hijacked cruise liner Achille Lauro in 1985, has been captured in Baghdad, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

Abbas was taken by American special operations forces during a raid Monday night on the outskirts of the capital city, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A number of his associates were also detained during raids at several sites around Baghdad, defense officials said. Commandos also seized documents and weapons.

The man known as Abu Abbas, whose name actually is Mohammed Abbas, led a faction of the Palestine Liberation Front, a Palestinian splinter group. His faction was in Tunisia until the attack on the Achille Lauro, after which it relocated to Iraq.

Abbas had eluded arrest since the Achille Lauro was hijacked as it sailed from Egypt to Israel in October 1985. Elderly American Leon Klinghoffer was shot in his wheelchair and tossed overboard. The hijacking ended with the militants surrendering to Egyptian authorities.

After Egypt put the militants on a plane to Tunisia, U.S. fighters intercepted the plane and forced it to land in Sicily. But Italy allowed Abbas to leave, saying it had insufficient evidence to hold him.

An Italian court later sentenced the militants to prison and Abbas was convicted in absentia of masterminding the operation.

The State Department says Iraq has provided support to Abu Abbas' group.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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