La Belle discotheque bombing

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Event.png La Belle discotheque bombing (Deep event) Rdf-icon.png
La Belle discotheque bombing.jpg
Date 5 April 1986
Location West Berlin,  Germany
Blamed on Libya
Type bombing
Deaths 3
Injured (non-fatal) 229
Description A bombing in West Berlin, blamed by the US on Libya.

La Belle discotheque was bombed in West Berlin, Federal Republic of Germany, on 5 April 1986 three people were killed and some 230 injured. The disco was commonly frequented by United States soldiers, and two of the dead and 79 of the injured were American servicemen.[1]

At 1:45am Central European Time, a bomb exploded under a table near the disk jockey's booth, killing instantly Nermin Hannay, a Turkish woman, and US Sergeant Kenneth T. Ford. A second American sergeant, James E. Goins, died from his injuries two months later. Some victims were left permanently disabled.

Libya blamed

Libya was held responsible for the bombing by the US government, and US President Ronald Reagan ordered retaliatory airstrikes on Tripoli and Benghazi in Libya ten days later. The US airstrikes, which reportedly killed at least 15 people, including Muammar Gaddafi's adopted daughter, were said to have been the motive for Libya's alleged bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 on 21 December 1988. (On 31 January 2001, the Libyan Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was convicted of the Lockerbie bombing.)[2]

On 13 November 2001 in Berlin, the verdict in the La Belle discotheque bombing case was announced. The court, complaining about "the limited willingness" of the German and American governments to share intelligence, found that the bombing had been planned by the Libyan secret service and the Libyan Embassy in what was East Berlin.[3]

Prelude

Angry over recent terrorist bombings, frustrated by the CIA’s failure to eliminate Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and still smarting from Israeli rumours of a Libyan hit squad sent to assassinate him, President Ronald Reagan opted for a military-style assault. All the White House needed was an excuse, and this came in the form of an attack on the La Belle Discotheque in West Germany. Nine days later, Reagan ordered US planes to attack Libya, resulting in over 37 dead, including Gaddafi’s infant daughter.

But had Libya actually bombed the disco? The White House was adamant. The National Security Agency (NSA) had intercepted coded exchanges between Tripoli and the East Berlin Libyan Peoples Bureau that purportedly said, “We have something that will make you happy.” Interestingly, under orders from the National Security Council, the raw coded intercepts were sent straight to the White House, bypassing normal NSA analysis channels, drawing criticism from at least one NSA officer. A West German intelligence official who later saw the cables, said they were “very critical and sceptical” of US reports blaming the Libyans. The US’s evidence hinged on reports in Stasi (East German police) files passed to West German officials. The Stasi reports indicated that the attack was planned by a group that had met in Tripoli a month earlier.

Trial

Yet the “Libya did it” theory quickly fell apart during the trial of Imad Mahmoud, another member of Nuri’s group, as the Stasi informants’ contradictions and inconsistencies cast doubts on the case. One informant, Mahmoud Abu-Jabber was, according to KGB files, a CIA informant. One KGB report indicated that Faysal met with his CIA contact two days prior to the attack, and told them the price of the bombing would be $30,000, and not $80,000 as previously agreed. Stasi defector Colonel Frank Weigand, based on a PLO Security Report, concluded that Nuri was a West German police agent. Other evidence which seemed to back this up was that while Nuri was wanted for the murder of a Libyan CIA informer, he managed to repeatedly cross the East-West Berlin border, one of the most tightly guarded border crossings in the world. When German authorities finally located Nuri in Lebanon in 1994, US officials failed to provide the evidence needed to extradite him, despite repeated pleas by West German officials.

Ultimately, West German officials concluded that the CIA was responsible for the bombing. Weigand recalled one phone conversation intercept where a highranking West German intelligence officer spoke with the Berlin official responsible for the La Belle investigation. According to Weigand, the investigator, when pressed for his conclusion, told the West German spook, “Well, when I add it all up, I think the Yanks did this thing themselves.”[4]

Blame and retribution

Early reports (from the US and Israel) blamed Libya for the attack on the nightclub after telex messages had allegedly been intercepted congratulating the Libyan East Berlin embassy on a job well done. US President Ronald Reagan retaliated by ordering the 1986 United States bombing of Libya in an apparent attempt to kill Gaddaffi. At least 30 Libyan soldiers and 15 civilians were killed.[5][6]

Trial and conviction

In spite of reports blaming Libya for the attack on the nightclub, no individual was officially accused of the bombing until the 1990 reunification of Germany and the subsequent opening up of the Stasi archives. Stasi files led German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis to Musbah Eter, a Libyan who had worked at the Libyan embassy in East Berlin. Stasi files listed him as an agent, and Mehlis said he was the Libyan spy agency's main contact at the embassy. Eter was persuaded to give evidence, but he remained a defendant because he only gave limited co-operation, according to the prosecution.

Musbah Eter and four other suspects were arrested in 1996 in Lebanon, Italy, Greece and Berlin, and put on trial a year later. In 2001, Musbah Eter, and two Palestinians, Yasser Mohammed Chreidi (or Yassar Al-Shuraidi or Yassir Chraidi) and Ali Chanaa were convicted in Berlin's Landgericht of aiding in murder, and Chanaa's former German wife, Mrs Verena Chanaa, was convicted of murder. They were given sentences of 12 to 14 years in prison.[7]

Prosecutor Mehlis proved beyond reasonable doubt that the three men had assembled the bomb in the Chanaas' flat. The explosive was said to have been brought into West Berlin in a Libyan diplomatic bag. Verena Chanaa and her sister, Andrea Häusler, carried it into the La Belle in a travel bag and left five minutes before it exploded. Ms Häusler was acquitted because it could not be proved that she knew a bomb was in the bag.

Background to the bombing

The judge Peter Marhofer said it was not clear whether Gaddafi or Libyan intelligence had actually ordered the attack, though there were indications that they had. Two weeks before the La Belle discotheque blast, Gaddafi called for Arab assaults on American interests worldwide after a US-Libyan naval clash in the Mediterranean, in which 35 seamen on a Libyan patrol boat in the western Gulf of Sidra were killed in international waters claimed by Libyan government.

Chreidi was eventually extradited from Lebanon to Germany in connection with the bombing. He had been working for the Libyan Peoples' Bureau in East Berlin at the time of the bombing. Chreidi was said to have connections with Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal, who used to live in Tripoli and was financed by Libya in the 1980s. CIA operative Musbah Eter was reported to be the Libyan spy agency's point man at the Embassy in East Berlin.[8]

Compensation

On 17 August 2003, newspapers reported that Libya had signalled to the German government that it was ready to negotiate compensation for the bombing with lawyers for non-US victims. A year later, on 10 August 2004, Libya concluded an agreement to pay a total of $35 million compensation.

In October 2008, Libya paid $1.5 billion into a fund to compensate relatives of the following:

  1. Lockerbie bombing victims with the remaining 20% of the sum agreed in 2003;
  2. American victims of the 1986 Berlin discotheque bombing;
  3. American victims of the 1989 UTA Flight 772 bombing; and,
  4. Libyan victims of the 1986 United States bombing of Libya.[9]

 

Related Document

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:Libya: Fine, but why Britainarticle20 March 2011Brian BarderDavid Cameron seemingly Gung Ho on toppling the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, while Barack Obama takes a back seat
 

The Official Culprit

NameDescription
LibyaLibya has larger proven oil reserves than any other African nation, ranking 9th in the world. It was provided with a lot of bomb making equipment in the late 1970s in the Arms for Libya clandestine weapons deal. NATO airstrikes killed 60,000 Libyan civilians in 2011.


References

  1. Malinarich, Nathalie (November 13, 2001). "Flashback: The Berlin disco bombing". BBC News.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Lockerbie: My Brother's Bomber"
  3. Erlanger, Steven (November 14, 2001). "4 Guilty in Fatal 1986 Berlin Disco Bombing Linked to Libya". New York Times. Retrieved 19 August 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "La Belle Disco: Debunking the 'Libya did it' theory"
  5. 1986: US launches air strikes on Libya| bbc.co.uk
  6. Apr 14, 1986: U.S. bombs Libya This Day in History
  7. "The Berlin verdict"
  8. "1986: The Bombing of Libya" Press for Conversion!, Issue #50, January 2003
  9. "Libya compensates terror victims". BBC News. 2008-10-31. Retrieved 2008-11-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

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