Definitions

eter'nality

1986 Berlin discotheque bombing

The Berlin discotheque bombing of April 5, 1986 was a terrorist attack on the La Belle discotheque, West Berlin, Germany, that was frequented by U.S. soldiers. A bomb placed under a table near the DJ booth exploded at the club, killing a Turkish woman and two U.S. servicemen and injuring 230 people, including more than 50 American servicemen. Nermin Hannay and U.S. Sgt Kenneth T. Ford died instantly. Sgt James E. Goins died two months later. Of the injured victims, some were permanently disabled.

Blame and retribution

Libya was blamed for the bombing after telex messages had been intercepted from Libya to the Libyan East Berlin embassy congratulating them on a job well done. Then U.S. President Ronald Reagan retaliated by ordering airstrikes against the Libyan capital of Tripoli and city of Benghazi (see Operation El Dorado Canyon). At least 15 people died in the U.S. airstrikes on Libya – including leader Colonel Gaddafi's adopted 15-month old daughter – and more than 100 were injured.

Trial and conviction

In 2001, a Libyan diplomat, Musbah Abdulghasem Eter, and two Palestinians, Yasser Mohammed Chreidi (or Yassar Al-Shuraidi or Yassir Chraidi) and Ali Chanaa were convicted in Berlin's Landgericht of aiding in murder, and Chanaa's former German wife, Mrs Verena Chanaa, was convicted of murder. They were given sentences of 12 to 14 years in prison.

Background to the bombing

The judge said it was not clear whether Gaddafi or Libyan intelligence had actually ordered the attack, though there were indications that they had. Two weeks before the La Belle discotheque blast, Gaddafi called for Arab assaults on American interests worldwide after a U.S.-Libyan naval clash in the Mediterranean, in which 35 seamen on a Libyan patrol boat in the Gulf of Sidra were killed in international waters claimed by Libya.

Chreidi was eventually extradited from Libya to Germany in connection with the bombing. He had been working for the Libyan Peoples' Bureau in East Berlin at the time of the bombing. Chreidi was said to have connections with Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal, who used to live in Tripoli and was financed by Libya in the 1980s. Eter was reported to be the Libyan spy agency's point man at the embassy in what was then communist East Berlin.

Compensation

On August 17, 2003, it was reported that Libya had signalled to the German government that it was ready to negotiate compensation for the bombing with lawyers for non-U.S. victims. A year later, on August 10, 2004, Libya concluded an agreement to pay a total of $35 million compensation.

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