Paris: The suspected mastermind of an attack on a Paris Jewish restaurant in 1982 that left six people dead and 22 injured, has been arrested in Jordan, a source close to the case said Wednesday.
Zuhair Mohamad Hassan Khalid al-Abassi, alias “Amjad Atta”, was one of three men for whom France issued an international arrest warrant earlier this year.
He was picked up on June 1 and an extradition request is underway, said a French legal source.
Overall, between three and five men are thought to have taken part in the attack, which was blamed on the Abu Nidal Organisation, a Palestinian militant group.
The other two main suspects in the 1982 attack have been named as Mahmoud Khader Abed Adra, alias “Hicham Harb”, who lives in Ramallah in the West Bank, and Walid Abdulrahman Abu Zayed, alias “Souhail Othman”, a resident of Norway.
The Abu Nidal Organisation, officially known as the Fatah-Revolutionary Council, was considered one of the most ruthless of the Palestinian militant groups.
“Amjad Atta” is thought to have been the number three in the group`s “special operations committee”.
The attack on the Chez Jo Goldenberg restaurant — in the Marais district, a popular largely Jewish neighbourhood in the centre of Paris — began around midday on August 9, 1982 when a grenade was tossed into the dining room.
Two men then entered the restaurant, which had around 50 customers inside, and opened fire with “WZ-63” Polish-made machine guns.
They also shot at passers-by as they escaped down the street. The whole incident lasted only a few minutes.
The investigation has made little progress over the years. One of the few pieces of evidence was one of the guns, found in the Bois de Boulogne park on the western edge of Paris shortly after the attack.
At the time, France often suffered the spillover from the conflict in the Middle East, with numerous clashes involving Arabs and Jews on its soil.
Two years prior to the Goldenberg attack, a bomb exploded outside a Paris synagogue, killing four and wounding around 20.
And more than thirty years later, the French capital would again be rocked by an anti-Semitic attack, as jihadist gunmen took hostages at a Jewish supermarket and killed four — part of the Charlie Hebdo attacks that left 17 dead in total.Martine Bouccara, a lawyer for the son of one of the victims, Andre Hezkia, hailed the breakthrough in the case more than three decades after the killings.
“This new legal advance can only be welcome for the civil parties because it gets us finally closer to a trial,” she said.
David Pere, a lawyer for the AFVT association that represents French victims of terrorism, said it was a “major breakthrough” that means “someone will be in the dock when there`s a trial.”
“But it just goes to underline the lack of action by the countries where the other two suspects reside, Norway and the Palestinian Authority,” added Pere.
According to his information, Oslo has not responded to the French request to arrest the suspect Walid Abdulrahman Abu Zayed.
Contacted by AFP in March, Abu Zayed`s lawyer Ole-Martin Meland said his client denied any involvement in the attack, stressing he “wasn`t there” when it occurred.