French Cut Secret Deal With Palestinian Terror Group in 1980s, Former Top Spy Says

Former French spy chief says authorities agreed not to arrest members of Abu Nidal group if it refrained from attacks on French soil

Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Yves Bonnet.
Yves Bonnet.Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet

France signed an agreement with a Palestinian terror group in the 1980s establishing that authorities would not arrest the organization's members as long as it refrained from committing attacks on French soil, a former top spy revealed this week.

This information, which the French government has denied, was recently revealed by former French spy chief Yves Bonnet and was first published in the newspaper Le Parisien.

Bonnet discussed the verbal agreement between Paris and the Abu Nidal organization struck during a secret meeting between French intelligence and the group. The agreement followed an attack by the organization at a deli in Paris's Jewish quarter. Six people were killed in that attack, in which the attackers threw grenades and shot at diners with machine guns.

Bonnet said that he had guaranteed safety for members of the group as long as they did not launch attacks on French soil, and that he was unconcerned with attacks by the group in Italy, according to Le Parisien. The newspaper also quoted Bonnet as saying that the Elysee officially knew nothing about the deal, but that then President Francois Mitterand's chief of staff was informed about it.

In France, the agreement paid off in the form of quiet for a few years, while the group continued to commit attacks in Italy, Austria, and Greece. The group eventually split up over internal disagreements. During its years of activity, hundreds of people were wounded or killed in dozens of countries in its attacks. Among the attacks were plane hijackings and shootings in a synagogue and in embassies. Its members attempts to assassin Israel's ambassador in London in 1982.

Bonnet's admission has led to calls for a thorough investigation of the matter, and into the possibility of similar agreements with other groups.