Nicosia, Cyprus — Abu Nidal, one of the world's most wanted guerrillas, is apparently working to strengthen his foothold in Lebanon and build support among Palestinians. ``Changes in the Arab world and beyond have prompted Abu Nidal to take a public stance and concentrate on the battle against Israel,'' a Lebanese political observer says.
Abu Nidal (``Father of the Struggle''), whose real name is Sabri Banna, appears to have put aside his international cloak-and-dagger network, at least temporarily, in favor of a drive to win support in the refugee camps of south Lebanon.
Palestinian sources say his Fatah Revolutionary Council deployed a paramiliary force in a camp near Tyre, and has bases in Ain Hilweh, east of Sidon, and in the Bekaa Valley. They say Abu Nidal's fighters have been in raids on Israel's self-proclaimed ``security zone'' inside south Lebanon. Opinion polls in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip suggest that many Palestinians admire him.
``The Abu Nidal group receives financial aid from Libya,'' a Palestinian source in Lebanon says, adding that some Abu Nidal gunmen are helping Libya's battle against Chad. ``From the beginning of this year, its guerrillas began launching attacks against the security zone.''
Abu Nidal's group is blamed for a 1982 attack on Israel's ambassador in London, which Israel cited as a reason for invading Lebanon. The United States accuses his group of the December 1985 attacks on Israeli airline desks at Vienna and Rome airports which killed 19.
Abu Nidal has often been reported to have died. But Israeli and American sources say he is in Libya.