Israeli analysts point finger at radical Palestinian splinter groups for TWA blast

Amid the confusion surrounding the identity of those responsible for the bomb blast aboard a Trans World Airlines jet last week, military and terrorism analysts in Israel appear to have some definite ideas. The view shared by highly placed government officials, as well as independent analysts, is that the terrorist attack can be linked to radical, breakaway Palestinian groups -- particularly ones headed by Abu Nidal or Abu Musa. The April 2 bomb attack, which killed four Americans, is apparently the work of a coalition of Palestinian guerrilla groups and was not necessarily ordered by a particular state, these sources say.

They say the bombing should be viewed as part of an ongoing effort by a coalition of Palestinian splinter groups to hit American and Israeli targets. The United States' military action against Libya two weeks ago had perhaps hastened the attack but not caused it, they say. According to the analysts, these Palestinian groups perceive the US as an independent target because of its ``imperialistic'' policy toward the Arabs and not only because of the US's support for Israel.

Israeli analysts agree that the style of last Wednesday's bombing reflected the method used in past by Abu Nidal, who has repeatedly declared his intentions of striking at American interests around the world.

Ariel Merari, director of the project on terrorism at Tel Aviv University, says the name used by the group that claimed responsibility for the TWA boming, the Arab Revolutionary Cells, ``bears the Abu Nidal trademark.'' He says Nidal's group has used similar names when claiming responsibility for previous actions.

Nidal, whose real name is Sabry Banna, has been linked in the past with Abu Musa. The groups, Merari says, have also attacked Jordanian targets and Palestinians sympathetic to Yasser Arafat's mainstream Al-Fatah group in the PLO. Both Merari and Zeev Schiff, military correspondent for the Haaretz newspaper, say these groups are supported by Libya and Syria.

Israel's accusations against radical Palestinian factions rather than the PLO stem from solid information not political considerations, Mr. Schiff says. While Israel had evidence in the past linking Al-Fatah to previous attacks on Israelis abroad, he says, information now points to the radicals.

Schiff says Arafat has stopped overseas terrorist actions, since his declaration last November ruling out such attacks outside Israel and Israeli-occupied territories. But, Schiff adds, Arafat is under intense pressure within the PLO to resume such actions. Arafat still has the infrastructure to carry out such attacks and may resume them in the not too distant future, Merari says.

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