Three terrorist groups asserted responsibility today for the early-morning bombing of a discotheque frequented by U.S. servicemen in which an American soldier and a Turkish woman were killed and more than 150 persons, including up to 60 U.S. military personnel and dependents, were injured.
A spokesman for the little-known Anti-American Arab Liberation Front said in a telephone call to a West German news agency here that the group had bombed the popular discotheque La Belle, in Friedenau, part of the Berlin-Schoeneberg district, according to West Berlin police spokesman Dieter Piete.
Spokesmen for the Red Army Faction, a West German terrorist organization, and its offshoot, the Holger Meins commando, also claimed to have bombed the club in separate calls to international news organizations here and in London, Piete said in a press conference. The latter group also had asserted responsibility for the slaying of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme in late February. Piete declined to say whether representatives of either group are being questioned.
None of the claims could be confirmed.
The Red Army Faction caller said the attack was an "action against imperialist crimes," but apparently neither that caller nor the others linked the attack to specific U.S. actions.
West German and U.S. authorities, pinpointing anti-American terrorism as a likely motive, have stepped up security in this divided city where 6,000 U.S. servicemen are based. They also have mounted a joint hunt for suspects and established a commission, headed by Piete, to investigate the bombing. So far no arrests have been made, a West Berlin police spokesman said in the press conference, but about 10 Arabs have been questioned.
Authorities withheld the name of the U.S. soldier who was killed pending notification of relatives.
The U.S. Ambassador to West Germany, Richard Burt, who flew here to visit injured U.S. servicemen, denounced the bombing and pledged that Washington will carry on its fight against international terrorism.
"I feel totally wiped out," Burt told reporters in front of the demolished discotheque. "It was an unbelievably cowardly act and a barbaric act."
Later, after visiting two of the servicemen hospitalized here, Burt said, "Our determination to continue the campaign against state-sponsored terrorism is undiminished."
Col. James J. James, commander of the American military hospital, said that 25 of the injured Americans were evacuated by air to the better-equipped U.S. Army Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, several hundred miles away.
Ten were hospitalized at the U.S. military hospital here, and others were dispersed with the civilian injured to local hospitals, making an exact count of the injured Americans difficult, James said.
Burt, following a hospital visit, told reporters that the most severely wounded U.S. servicemen are "suffering very serious burns."
The approximately 90 persons of other nationalities who were injured include West Germans, five Arabs and four or five Turks, a West Berlin police spokesman said. The woman who died was a 28-year-old Turk, the spokesman said. He withheld her identification until relatives could be notified.
The blast, which occurred at about 1:45 a.m. local time, when about 500 people were in the nightclub, appeared to target American military personnel here, according to local police.
"The lights suddenly went out and then a deafening explosion, and the ceiling and all these cables came down on my head and I thought, 'Oh God, now I die,' " said Renate Garrison, 35, a West German married to a former U.S. serviceman. Garrison and other survivors were interviewed by The Associated Press at Rudolf Virchow Hospital.
"There was blood all over, legs sticking out of the debris and people were walking on my head," said Garrison, who lost hearing in one ear and suffered serious cuts.
[U.S. Spec. 4 Larry Lampkins, 34, of Milwaukee, said the force of the blast "ripped the pants off my legs and there was a lot of blood on my upper body but not mine because I didn't get cuts on my upper body. I had just asked a German girl for a dance when there seemed to be an electric short circuit and right afterward it ]the bomb[ went off, and there was so much smoke and screaming and hollering," said Lampkins, of the 6th Battalion in the U.S. Berlin Brigade. Lampkins suffered a punctured eardrum and bruises.]
La Belle, located in the American sector of the city, about two miles from the U.S. Andrews Barracks, attracts heavy American patronage on weekend nights, West German and U.S. officials here said.
The 4 to 11 pounds of explosives were placed near the dance floor, Piete said. The explosion blew a hole through the ceiling and the cellar below, and left walls in splinters with bricks strewn throughout the interior. The cement front of the mauve-colored building was ripped away.
Following the military clash between Libya and the United States in the Gulf of Sidra last week, U.S. personnel clamped down on security at all American military facilities in West Berlin, according to a U.S. official here.
In recent weeks local police have received threatening calls from various terrorist groups, including Arabs, according to a police spokesman. Last Saturday a powerful bomb exploded at a meeting of the local German-Arab Friendship Association in the Kreuzberg district, where many Turks live, injuring seven.
There were 12 attacks on U.S. and NATO installations in West Germany in 1985. In the most recent, on Nov. 25, 23 persons, most of them Americans, were injured in a car bomb explosion in Frankfurt.