Three days before the hijacking of the Egyptian passenger jet last week, a meeting of Libyan "revolutionary officers" ended with a communique pledging to strike at U.S. interests in the Arab world and to support "materially and morally" those fighting the "traitorous regime" in Egypt.
While there is no proof of Libyan involvement in the latest bloody hijacking, Egyptian and U.S. officials have indicated strong suspicion that Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi was the mastermind.
For more than a year, Qaddafi has escalated efforts to undermine the government of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and liquidate Libyan opposition elements in Cairo.
Early this month, The Washington Post disclosed a Central Intelligence Agency plan to back efforts by neighboring countries to undermine Qaddafi's government.
Since then, he has noticeably increased his verbal attacks on the United States and tried to use the disclosure to rally support at home and in the Arab world for his troubled regime.
A statement issued Thursday by Qaddafi's "revolutionary officers" after a two-day session said they had discussed "overt and covert missions" and ordered "any counterrevolutionary attempt" crushed "without having to refer to any quarter."
In addition to committing themselves to waging "the battles of Arab unity by force," the officers pledged support for "the popular revolution" in Sudan as well as the "popular masses" in Tunisia.
They also pledged to track down "the dogs of the CIA" and assure "their physical liquidation."
Libya's state radio, echoing comments by its news agency JANA, yesterday charged "clumsy and reckless behavior" by the Egyptian commandos who stormed the hijacked plane in Malta Sunday night and said "responsibility for the massacre lies on the shoulders of the Egyptian regime."
Referring to The Post report, JANA also said the United States "has given the green light to its agent, the Egyptian regime, to carry out aggression" against Libya.
Fiery anti-American rhetoric from Qaddafi is not new, and some U.S. officials note little change in what they regard as "a consistently high level" of terrorist activity emanating from Tripoli during the last five years.
In the last few months, however, some U.S. analysts have noted several developments suggesting a qualitative change in Qaddafi's commitment to revolution and terrorism against U.S. interests and those of its moderate Arab allies. These include:
*Immediately following overthrow of Sudanese President Jaafar Nimeri April 6, Qaddafi sent scores of Libyan agents and pro-Libyan Sudanese to set up "revolutionary committees" there.
They have taken advantage of the new government's plan to hold free elections for a civilian government by next April 6 and have established themselves in the badly fragmented Sudanese political life, U.S. analysts say.
The situation in Khartoum has become so unsettled that the State Department issued a travel advisory last week warning Americans to avoid the Sudanese capital because "known Libyan terrorists" freely roam the streets.
Hume Horan, U.S. ambassador to Sudan, has been recalled to discuss the Libyan terrorist threat in Khartoum.
*Last March 31, after a meeting of Arab "revolutionaries" in Tripoli, Qaddafi established a "National Command of Revolutionary Forces in the Arab World." Its stated goal is "to liberate and unite" the Arab world.
News reports said the meeting was attended by representatives of ruling parties in Syria and South Yemen; left-wing parties from Lebanon; opposition groups from Iraq, Somalia, Jordan, Sudan, Oman and North Yemen, and Palestinian factions opposed to Yasser Arafat's leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Qaddafi thus has a pan-Arab organization to help him work within the Arab world to carry out terrorist activities with the help of non-Libyan factions.
*There is increasing evidence that Qaddafi's chief co-conspirator is Sabry Banna, widely known as Abu Nidal, the Arab world's foremost Palestinian terrorist.