BAGHDAD, IRAQ, NOV. 4 -- Abul Abbas, the radical Palestinian leader who organized the Achille Lauro ship hijacking five years ago, confirmed today that Libya has expelled 145 members of his radical group and closed down four training camps.
Abul Abbas said the move was a surprise to him and his wing of the Palestine Liberation Front, considered by Western governments to be a major terrorist organization. He said the ejection was unjustified and urged Libya's leader, Col. Moammar Gadhafi, to reopen the camps and the group's offices.
Libya has given no explanation for its action, he said. Reports began to surface about a week ago that Libya had expelled the Palestinians.
Arab diplomats in Baghdad said the United States had asked King Hassan of Morocco and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to press Gadhafi to eject the group. Gadhafi is believed to want Libya's name removed from the U.S. State Department's list of countries supporting terrorism.
Abul Abbas, whose real name is Mohammed Abbas, leads one of two wings of the Palestine front, which split from Ahmed Jibril's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command in 1977. Based in Baghdad since leaving Lebanon in 1982, Abul Abbas is believed to have several hundred guerrilla fighters in Iraq, Lebanon and, until now, Libya.
Western nations have pressed Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasser Arafat to dissociate himself from Abul Abbas, who has a seat on the PLO executive committee. Abul Abbas was widely condemned for the two-day hijacking of the Achille Lauro in 1985, in which an elderly, disabled Jewish passenger was killed and thrown overboard.
Pressure on Arafat to remove Abul Abbas increased after Adul Abbas's group raided an Israeli beach in May, an action that led to a break in the United States' 18-month-old dialogue with the PLO.
Abul Abbas dismissed reports that the PLO leadership had asked Libya to kick out his group. He said most of it had moved to Lebanon, and others to places that he declined to name.