This Week in EUCOM History: April 2-8, 1986

April 5, 1986 -- Berlin disco bombed in terrorist attack

On April 5, 1986 the Berlin discotheque La Belle was bombed in a terrorist attack.  This was an entertainment venue that was commonly frequented by United States soldiers attached to EUCOM and its component commands. A bomb placed under a table near the disk jockey's booth exploded at 1:45 am killing three people and injuring around 230 people, including 79 American servicemen.

Libya was blamed for the bombing after telex messages had been intercepted from Libya to the Libyan East Berlin embassy congratulating them on a job well done. U.S. President Ronald Reagan retaliated by ordering airstrikes against the Libyan capital of Tripoli and city of Benghazi. At least 15 civilians were killed in the U.S. airstrikes on Libya, including a child described as leader Colonel Gaddafi's adopted 15-month old daughter, and more than 2,000 were injured, including the then-3-year-old Khamis Gaddafi.

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 Abdulghasem 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 and four other suspects were arrested in 1996 in Lebanon, Italy, Greece and Berlin, and put on trial a year later. In 2001 Musbah Abdulghasem 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, Verena Chanaa, was convicted of murder. They were given sentences of 12 to 14 years in prison.

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 Haeusler, carried it into the La Belle in a travel bag and left five minutes before it exploded. Haeusler was acquitted because it could not be proved that she knew a bomb was in the bag.

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 U.S.-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. Eter was reported to be the Libyan spy agency's point man at the embassy in East Berlin.

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