Italy's release of 2 prisoners raises suspicion of deal with Arab terrorists


PARIS -- Amid growing fears of terrorist strikes in support of Saddam Hussein, Italian authorities have released two terrorists convicted of aiding hijackers of the Achille Lauro ocean liner in 1985, according to statements by their Italian lawyers yesterday.

Mohamed Issa Abbas and Yussef Ahmed Sa'ad, reputed members of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, were released in late December, said Gianfranco Pagano, one of the law

yers who applied for the release of the two men under an Italian amnesty law.

Abbas and Sa'ad were expelled from Italy after their early release and are believed to be in Algeria.

Announcement of the release, published in the Corriere Della Sera newspaper, raised suspicions among diplomats and other observers of an Italian deal with the Fatah Revolutionary Council, led by Abu Nidal, one of the most notorious Arab terrorists in the world.

Diplomats based in Western Europe suggested that Rome may have

set Sa'ad and Abbas free on the understanding that Italy would be spared terrorist strikes in return. There was no comment from the Italian government yesterday.

After Iraq invaded Kuwait, Abu Nidal moved his base of operations to Baghdad and pledged terrorist reprisals in support of President Hussein.

Abbas and Sa'ad were serving seven- and six-year prison terms, respectively, for providing financial support and false passports to the four men who hijacked the Achille Lauro in October 1985. Each had about a year left to serve.

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