The Italian police on Tuesday arrested a 40-year-old Libyan wanted in Germany for the 1986 bombing of a Berlin discotheque that killed two U.S. soldiers and a Turkish woman and injured about 200 other people.
The man was identified as Musbah Abulghasem Eter, a former member of the Libyan secret service who is believed to be the last fugitive sought in connection with the Berlin bombing.
German prosecutors have accused Libya of plotting the bombing of the La Belle disco, a night spot frequented by American servicemen. Five people have been charged in the case, including three Germans, Eter and a Palestinian who, together with Eter, were at the Libyan Embassy in East Berlin at the time of the blast. The other four are already in German custody.
Eter was picked up on Tuesday evening in a Rome neighborhood known as the African Quarter and is now being held at a Rome prison for extradition to Germany. A Libyan couple also was arrested and charged with harboring a fugitive.
Eter was tracked down in Rome after German police, listening to a tapped telephone, noticed that repeated calls were being made to and from public and private phones in the neighborhood where he was staying, a spokesman for Italy’s anti-terrorist police, told reporters on Wednesday.
According to Italian press reports, Eter had been staying in the apartment of the Libyan couple, identified as Hanna Ben Amer and Khaled Ettir, said to be Eter’s cousin, for the last six or seven months. Neighbors told reporters that Hanna Ben Amer said she worked for the Libyan embassy, and seemed to keep normal office hours. Ettir was more often at home, they said.
Nicola De Cristoforo, deputy chief of the Rome anti-terrorist police force, said that police were examining the possibility of a ”wider network” that had protected Eter while he was in Rome. He said a number of documents, including stolen and false identity papers, were found during the operation.
German prosecutors have said that the Libyan secret service issued an order for the bombing of an ”American object.” The United States was convinced of the Libyan connection immediately after the blast, which took place on April 5, 1986, and ordered a retaliatory raid against Libya, which killed at least 15 people, including the adopted daughter of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
An Italian woman who was with one of the Libyans on Tuesday also was arrested but was released after questioning. Hanna Ben Amer was charged but was released while Khaled Ettir was still being held.