U.S. officials last month set in motion a plan for an extraordinary international abduction of the American manager of a major terrorist training operation set up in 1976 for the radical Libyan dictator, Col. Muammar Qaddafi.

The training and supply manager, Douglas M. Schlacter, a former Washington-area resident, was secretly indicted by a federal grand jury last July for his role in coordinating many of the Libyan activities of ex-CIA agents Edwin P. Wilson and Francis E. Terpil.

On Sept. 11, the State Department, at the initiative of the U.S. attorney's office here, sent cabled instructions to the U.S. ambassador to the central African nation of Burundi, Francis D. Cook.

The federal prosecutors asked Burundian officials to seize and hold Schlacter until U.S. marshals or FBI agents can pick him up. Schlacter now operates an air freight service in Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, on the northern shore of Lake Tanganyika.

The United States has no extradition treaty with Burundi, and authorities there have not yet acted.

Schlacter is wanted because he allegedly served as the chief supervisor for terrorist training and supply operations in Libya under an April, 1976, contract involving Qaddafi, Wilson and Terpil.

Wilson and Terpil, both fugitives, were indicted in April, 1980, by a federal grand jury here on charges of exporting explosives, delayed-action electronic timers and sensitive night vision equipment to Libya. Wilson is living in Tripoli, and Terpil has been seen in Lebanon and Syria.

Wilson and Terpil also have been indicted by the federal grand jury for attempting to execute a $1 million assassination contract inside Egypt against an expatriate Qaddafi critic, Umar Abdullah Muhayshi.

Although Schlacter's name appeared in the original indictment, he was not charged by the grand jury. The Washington Post has learned, however, that the grand jury handed up a sealed indictment in July charging Schlacter with serving as "country manager" in Libya under the Wilson-Terpil contract.

It alleges that Schlacter's responsibilities included overseeing the production of explosive devices disguised as ash trays, tea kettles and other household items in a makeshift laboratory constructed in the winter palace of Libya's former monarch, King Idris.

It also charges that Schlacter recruited and supervised the activities of current and former American military and Special Forces soldiers who were enlisted to train Libyan commandos in terrorism. In addition, it is alleged, he arranged for martial arts training for Qaddafi's bodyguards.

The prosecutors who obtained the indictment, E. Lawrence Barcella and Carol E. Bruce, said they had "absolutely no comment" on the case against Schlacter.

The profile of Schlacter provides a revealing insight into the furtive corporate network allegedly erected by Wilson to ship arms, explosives, and sensitive military technology overseas. Schlacter today remains the sole stockholder of record of Aroundworld Shipping and Chartering Inc., the Houston-based concern set up by Wilson in 1976 as an international freight forwarding company. In large measure, Aroundworld shipped oil field drilling equipment, pipe and construction materials to legitimate customers abroad.

But in 1976 and 1977, according to investigative sources, the company also mobilized men and jet cargo aircraft for late-night loading operations of C4 plastique explosives and electronic delayed-action timers aboard chartered DC8 jets for shipment to Tripoli.

Control and operation of air freight companies were essential to the Wilson-Terpil operation, since many commercial charter companies and pilots could not be counted on to evade U.S. Customs and export control laws regularly broken by the ex-CIA agents. Terpil, for instance, helped control a small air freight firm in the Greek Isles near Cyprus, where he had been stationed as an active-duty CIA agent.

To lend legitimacy to the air freight company, called Adco Airlines, Terpil apparently incorporated the company using the name of an ex-CIA official and that of Richard Ashcroft, an executive of Stanford Technology Corp. in Campbell, Calif. Ashcroft, reached in Sunnyvale, Calif., where he is now president of a Stanford Technology subsidiary, said last week that he had never agreed to serve on the board of the airline and had never attended a meeting of the board.

Ashcroft, whose firm manufactures "digital imaging systems" like those aboard the Voyager II satellite that sent back photographs from Saturn, said that he had employed Terpil for about six months in 1976 to secure export licenses in Washington for the firm's products. He said Terpil was laid off for unsatisfactory performance and never successfully obtained a license for the firm.

Federal investigators have determined, however, that some of the sophisticated Stanford Technology equipment purchased in later transactions through former Stanford employes may have been adapted for military applications and brokered by former Stanford employes without the company's knowledge.

From his job as manager of Wilson's farming operations in Fauquier County, Va., Schlacter rose in the ranks of the terrorist training organization to what one source described as "Wilson's righthand man" and "Wilson's man in Libya."

According to sources, Schlacter's duties included:

Coordinating the 1977 Libyan arrival of 20 tons of C4 plastique shipped illegally by a Pomona, Calif., explosives manufacturer, Jerome S. Brower, who was then chairman of the International Society of Explosives Engineers and an industry appointee to the Senate's Office of Technology Assessment. The jet pilot of an early explosives shipment into Libya arranged by Wilson and Terpil later complained to his superiors, according to a federal investigative report, that, "Upon arrival in Libya, the aircraft was immediately surrounded by infantry and armored units. This had not occurred on the pilot's previous flights into Tripoli."

The Washington Post reported the discovery of the 20-ton shipment by prosecutors last February, when Brower was sentenced to four months in prison.

Arranging for an ex-Marine soldier of fortune named John Dutcher to teach martial arts to Qaddafi's bodyguards. Dutcher was held briefly as a material witness by New York police in December, 1979, when Terpil and another man were arrested for trying to sell 10,000 machine guns to undercover policemen posing as South American terrorists.

Terpil had offered Dutcher's services as someone who could train terrorists. In a statement to federal investigators obtained by The Post, Dutcher, also a resident of suburban Virginia, said that he met Terpil in 1978 through Schlacter. Schlacter thereafter arranged for Dutcher to travel to Libya, where Schlacter discovered that the Libyan operation was actually controlled by Wilson.

During his four-month stay, Dutcher trained Qaddafi's guards and met other teams of ex-military and Special Forces soldiers who were teaching such things as sky-diving and explosives handling. When Dutcher returned to the United States he said he stayed on the payroll of another company under Schlacter's control, Delex Corporation of Rosslyn.

According to some accounts, Schlacter is no longer associated with Wilson's Libyan operations