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Rula Amin: Iraqis not thinking of Abu Abbas

CNN correspondent Rula Amin
CNN correspondent Rula Amin

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The debate has started over the fate of Abu Abbas, the Palestinian terrorist considered the mastermind behind the hijacking of the Achille Lauro and captured by U.S. forces in Baghdad this week. Wednesday morning, CNN correspondent Rula Amin was in Baghdad, and she talked about reaction to the development.

AMIN: It was not a secret that Abu Abbas was living here in Baghdad for years. In fact, just months before the war started, we asked him if he was going to try to flee Iraq now that the U.S. may be arriving In Baghdad. And the answer he had was: "No."

He didn't think that if the troops arrived here, he would be in trouble. He told us that throughout the years he has been traveling in the region, in different Arab countries, and that he went to Gaza, crossing borders controlled by Israel, and that his case was closed, and he didn't see that anybody would put him on trial again. That's the word we had from him before the war started.

Today we heard from his wife. She is in Beirut. She told Arab media that she had just spoken to Abu Abbas on the phone a few hours before he was arrested.

She was surprised. She appealed for his release. She said he had nothing to do with the war. He was not a Baathist. He was not part of the Iraqi government, he has nothing to do with this current war, and she was very surprised that he was arrested.

People, I think, are so busy with trying to satisfy their immediate needs that they are not even paying attention to the news of the arrest of Abu Abbas. Many people in Baghdad are still without power, still without water, there are no hospitals, and they don't feel safe in terms of their lives and property. These are the immediate concerns.

They are not worried about what's happening to Abu Abbas now, because they feel their own lives are under threat, and that's what they are trying to tackle.

Abbas was arrested by U.S. Special Forces late Monday evening. We don't know where he is now. We do know that the justice minister in Italy wants him extradited.

The Palestinian Authority, however, is demanding that the U.S. release him, because they say his capture actually violates an agreement they made with Israel and the United States. The agreement was that any Palestinian official who had been involved in any violent or any kind of attack before the Oslo Peace Accord was signed should not be pursued for it.

And we got a completely different reaction from the Israelis, as you would expect, who welcome the move. They consider Abu Abbas a terrorist, and they were happy to hear that he was captured.


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