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Suspects arrested in 1986 German disco bombing

October 11, 1996
Web posted at: 10:00 p.m. EDT (0200 GMT)

BERLIN (CNN) -- German police announced Friday that after 10 years with no significant leads, they had made arrests in connection with the 1986 bombing of a discotheque in which three people died and more than 200 people were injured.

The first two people arrested Thursday night, so far identified only as Verena C. and Ali C., were being held on charges of murder and causing an explosion. Their nationalities were not given by Berlin authorities.

At the time of the bombing, the two, both 37 years old, were married. The woman, police say, actually planted the bomb following instructions from her husband.

The arrest of another German woman near Salonika, Greece, coincided with the arrest of Verena C. Her extradition to Germany is expected to be prompt since she faces no criminal charges in Greece.

In addition, Berlin authorities issued arrest warrants for four Libyans. Three of the suspects worked at the Libyan Embassy in Berlin in 1986, and a fourth worked for Libyan intelligence.

Germany: Bombing was Libyan plot

"There is evidence that Libya ordered the attack. This is clearly a form of state terror," said Berlin Prosecutor Dieter Neumann. He would not explain what led prosecutors to the suspected bombers 10 years after the attack took place.

Still another suspect, Yasser Mohammed Chreidi, a Palestinian, was extradited to Germany in May in connection with the bombing. He is to be tried in Berlin. Chreidi has been tied to suspected terrorist Abu Nidal, also a Palestinian, who lived in and was financed by Libya in the 1980s.

German prosecutors believe the four suspects for whom warrants were issued bankrolled the bombing, then returned to Libya.

Stasi files didn't point finger

Germany's investigation into the bombing suffered an apparent setback earlier this year, when one of the prosecutors' key witnesses died in a Portugal car crash.

Rainier Wiegand, a former official of the East German Stasi intelligence service, was reputed to have given investigators Stasi information on Arab guerrillas after German reunification in 1990.

However, in a news conference, Neumann denied that Stasi files implicated the couple arrested Friday.

The bombing of the La Belle Discotheque in April 1986 killed a Turkish woman and two U.S. servicemen, and injured 230 people, including many other U.S. servicemen. At the time of the bombing, the disco was a well-known hangout for U.S. soldiers.

Libya was blamed for the bombing, and then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan retaliated by ordering airstrikes against the Libyan capital of Tripoli. At least 15 people died in the U.S. airstrikes, including the 15-month-old daughter adopted by leader Moammar Gadhafi, and more than 100 were injured .

Berlin Bureau Chief Bill Delaney and Reuters contributed to this report.

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