France: Top suspect in deadly ’82 Paris attack arrested

Associated Press

Paris — A man considered the “supervisor” of an attack nearly 33 years ago on a deli in the heart of Paris’ Jewish quarter has been arrested in Jordan, the Paris prosecutor’s office announced on Wednesday.

Palestinians throwing grenades burst into the Jo Goldenberg deli on Aug. 9, 1982 and sprayed machine-gun fire. Six people, including two Americans, were killed, and 22 injured in the attack on the rue des Rosiers.

Spokeswoman Agnes Thibualt-Lecuivre said that Souhaur Mouhamad Hassan Khalil Al-Abbassi, the alleged “chief” and “supervisor” of the attack, was arrested on June 1.

She said France is requesting his extradition, but it is unclear how long the process of bringing the suspect to France would take.

A Jordanian official said the suspect appeared before a judge who set him free but imposed a travel ban until a decision on his extradition is made. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to discuss the case with the media.

Al-Abbassi is one of three suspects in the attack sought by French authorities. The other two are believed to be in the Palestinian territories and in Norway.

French authorities announced in March — nearly 33 years after the attack — that international arrest warrants had been issued for the suspects, now in their late 50s and early 60s, who are believed to have been members of the Abu Nidal Palestinian terrorist group.

“They fired on everyone who was eating lunch — everyone,” deli owner Jo Goldenburg recalled in 2002. The deli, which has since been closed, was a centerpiece tourist attraction in the famed Marais neighborhood.

The Abu Nidal faction, named after its leader, is considered responsible for nearly two dozen attacks that left at least 275 people dead, including assaults on El Al Israel Airlines ticket counters at the Rome and Vienna airports in 1985 in which 18 people were killed.

The notorious Abu Nidal himself was found dead in his Baghdad apartment in August 2002. Iraqi authorities said Nidal, whose real name is Sabri al-Banna, committed suicide.

The investigation into an even older case, the 1980 bombing outside a Paris synagogue that killed three French citizens and one Israeli, is also alive. The suspect in that case was extradited to France late last year from Canada.