French score big points against domestic terror

Terrorists have suffered a dramatic defeat. That's the conclusion of experts following the arrest this weekend of four leading members of Direct Action, a French urban guerilla group. The left-wing group's chief Jean-Marc Rouillan and his companion Nathalie Menigon were among the four arrested. Police reportedly stormed a farmhouse near the town of Orleans during a Saturday night strategy session, and captured the terrorists.

Direct Action is widely regarded as the most dangerous French terror group. It is blamed for a series of terror attacks in Paris over the last few years, including last November's assasination of the Renault automobile company's chairman Georges Besse.

Direct Action also boasts strong ties to international terrorism. In 1985, it joined forces with the West German Red Army Faction. At the same time, police say Direct Action provided important logistical aid for Basque, Irish, Italian, Belgian, and Middle Eastern terrorists.

Lebanese terrorist suspect Georges Ibrahim Abdallah offers a specific example. One Western diplomat said the Lebanese Christian leader of the Lebanese Armed Revolutionary Faction used a Direct Action printing press to produce copies of his manifestos that claimed credit for the killings of an American and Israeli diplomat.

The Direct Action arrests may affect Abdallah's trial this week. In a Feb. 11 ultimatum, Direct Action threatened to kill the judges trying Abdallah. With its four principal members behind bars, experts say it may no longer may be capable of such action. And while the risk remains that Abdallah's own group may now try a spectacular violent reprisal to show solidarity with their imprisoned French colleagues, they now may be less capable of causing harm without Direct Action's aid.

Further arrests could soon follow. At the Orleans farmhouse, police seized a cache of address books belonging to the Direct Action leaders.

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