Denmark: Force 17 Office, Copenhagen

On April 5th, 1989 the Danish Intelligence Service (PET), put out an alarm that 12 terrorists were on their way from Damascus to Copenhagen intending to abduct a plane in Scandinavia. According to a Berlingske Tidende report, PET got this information directly from Force 17, Arafat's elite unit, as part of an on-going cooperative effort between the two agencies. What Force 17 got in return is unclear.

Danish authorities knew that people connected to Palestinian terrorism were allowed into Denmark in the 1980s. They planned attacks in Denmark without being arrested or charged in any criminal case. Critics thinks that the authorities ignored terrorist activities for fear of revenge attacks, or because they were getting intelligence from the Palestinians.

The Blekinge Street Gang case shows that the PFLP group was active in Denmark in the 1970s and 1980s. But they were just one of several Palestinian groups which operated in Europe in those years, including Force 17.

In Denmark, PET monitored a handful of Force 17 members who had come to Denmark claiming to be stateless Palestinian refugees. A few obtained Danish citizenship, got a job and got married in Denmark. But Force-17 people in Copenhagen also planned a series of attacks, while the PET followed them on the sidelines.

In 1987 the PET intercepted a plan to murder a former Israeli intelligence agent, Sylvia Raphael, who at the time was living in Norway. Raphael was a mossad agent and was sent in 1973 to Norway to kill the suspected head of the Munich Massacre in 1972. The plan failed and Raphael got five years in prison. After she was released she stayed in the country and married her Norwegian army defense lawyer.

In 1987 a group of Force 17 traveled by ferry from Copenhagen to Norway to liquidate Raphael. They didn't know that several PET people were on-board with them and that Norwegian intelligence had warned Raphael, who had gone into hiding. PET and Norwegian police followed the Force 17 people as they tried hunting down Raphael and finally gave up and returned to Denmark.

This attack in Oslo was not the only one PET was aware of. In 1988 the Chief Rabbi of Denmark, Bent Melchior, was warned by PET men of an attack against him and Politiken chief editor, Herbert Pundik (see more here). Melchior was also told of a previous murder attempt of Israel's president Chaim Herzog, who visited Denmark in July, 1987.

The media picked up on these stories after the police breakthrough in the Blekinge Street Gang case in May 1989 showed that there were groups in Denmark with the will, ability and contacts to support Palestinian terrorism.

In the summer of 1989, 25 year old Danish teacher Ulla Lyngsby was arrested when she tried to enter Israel. The Mossad arrested Lyngsby and interrogated her for a week. According to the Israelis Lyngsby had a code book in her Luggage with instructions and $75,000-$100,000 hidden in a piece of Danish cheese. Lyngsby not only sympathized with the Palestinian cause, but was also married to Palestinian Salim Mishawli, who was suspected of being connected to Force 17 in Copenhagen.

In July 1987 a Palestinian cartoonist who was critical of PLO leaders was murdered in London. Lyngsby's name came up several times during the MI5 investigation, and thereafter PET started tapping her conversations.

The Israelis accused Lyngsby of participating in the planned attack against Melchior and Pundik, who were touring Israel at the same time she was arrested. Danish media quoted Israeli investigation reports which said that Lyngsby had said she had planned a terror attack together with Force 17 people connected to the PLO office in Copenhagen. The plan was to infiltrate a travel agency with Fatah people and take the travelers hostage, demanding the release of Palestinian prisoners in return for their release. Lyngsby's job was to call the travel agency and get information on the tour.

However Lyngsby retracted her confession when she was brought in front of Israeli judges. It is unclear till today was she was accused of in court. She was released in mid-July and returned to Denmark, where she was received by her fans.

Danish media suggested that Lyngsby confessed due to the brutality of the Israeli investigators.

Pelle Voigt, parliament member for the Socialist People's Party, supported this theory. He was a proponent of the PLO's existence in Copenhagen, in the office in Alperosevej in Amager, which was now being accused of housing Force 17 agents, and he doubted the Israeli accusations.

In July 1989 Poul Schlüter, the prime minister, admitted the existence of murder plans against Danish citizens. He said that several people in Denmark were involved in planning attacks against both foreigners and Danes connected to Israel, but he didn't name any names. There wasn't enough of a basis to persecute them according to Danish law, he said.

Even Pelle Voigt said after a meeting with the foreign affairs committee in parliament that the PLO representation in Copenhagen was a sham. The chairman of the committee (Bjørn Elmquist, Liberal Party) warned the PLO that they should choose their people carefully.

Despite these stories in the Summer of 1989, there were no consequences for Force 17 and Lyngsby. Nobody was prosecuted or deported.

Voigt was central in bringing the PLO to Denmark in the 1980s. As a member of the foreign affairs committee he was active in getting the PLO status as the legitimate representative of the Palestinians in Denmark, and he had close contacts with the PLO people in Copenhagen.

The revelations of murder plans against Melchior and Pundik came as a shock for him and in July 1989 he made contact with the PLO and undertook his own investigation into the case. He was shocked to conclude, after a thorough investigation and dialog with the PLO, that there was no doubt that people from the PLO office in Copenhagen were involved in planning terror attack and were connected with Force 17.

He traveled to the PLO office in Tunis to investigate and after six days returned to Denmark in September 1989. He said he had met with Yassir Arafat and Force 17 people, including Abu Talayeb and his deputy Abu Salim - and got interesting information. They confirmed Force 17 people were stationed in Denmark, and that they could have taken part in the attack against Sylvia Raphael. However, the PLO denied that Force 17 had planned the attack against Bent Melchior and Herbert Pundik.

Voigt also said he had read a summary of the meeting in Zurich on April 2nd, 1989 between representatives from Force 17 and the Danish PET, among them Per Larsen, PET's operations head. The aim of the meeting was to establish cooperation to fight terrorism by other, non-Fatah, Palestinian groups. As part of this cooperative effort, PET gave Force 17 materials. There was talk of names of 20-25 Palestinians in Denmark who were suspected of terrorism and photos of some of them, which PET asked the PLO to identify.

PET's head at the time, Hanne Bech Hansen, who today heads the Copenhagen police, did not want to comment. Neither did Per Larsen, today a chief police inspector under Hansen. Poul Schlüter doesn't remember the case now, but he says he can confirm that there was contact on several occasions between the PLO and Danish authorities in a third country. Ulla Lyngsby was unavailable for comment.

Danish politicians are now demanding an investigation into this issue.

Source: BT (Danish)

See also: Denmark: Fear of terrorism backlash

No comments: