TERRORISM: And Now, Mail-a-Death

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THE Israeli embassy in London's fashionable Kensington district had been warned by intelligence agents to expect some sort of terrorist attack, and particularly to be on the lookout for parcel bombs sent through the mail. But in the rush to distribute incoming mail after the three-day Yom Kippur weekend, no one paid any particular attention to four slim letters that had been airmailed from Amsterdam and hand-addressed to individual embassy staffers. Three of the letters were never opened. But Agricultural Counselor Ami Shachori, 44, nonchalantly ripped open the fourth without even interrupting the conversation he was having with a colleague, Theodor Kaddar. "This is important to me. I've been expecting it," said Shachori, who was about to return to Israel, and explained that he had ordered Dutch flower seeds to take with him. The powerful explosion that followed temporarily deafened Kaddar, tore a hole in the desk, and fatally wounded Shachori in the stomach and chest.

Thus last week, the latest round of terror that began with the murder of eleven members of the Israeli Olympic team in Munich reached a new and deadly level. Before the week ended, 64 similar letter bombs flooded Israeli diplomatic offices in New York City, Ottawa, Montreal, Paris, Vienna, Geneva, Brussels, Buenos Aires and Kinshasa as well as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem; fortunately, all were discovered before they could do any damage. Security was strengthened around Israeli offices throughout the world; British police set up a special anti-kidnap patrol; in New York City, visitors to the Israeli U.N. mission communicated through locked doors by intercom and closed-circuit TV.

The letters had been mailed from Amsterdam on the weekend. Each of them had been specifically and neatly addressed and bore the exact postage for its slender weight. Unlike the old-fashioned parcel bombs, the new devices came in ordinary manila or airmail envelopes.

It was the subtlest form of murder that either side in the Middle Eastern conflict had undertaken in the generation-old war that was now being inflicted on the rest of the world. Police feared immediately that the bombers could inspire a legion of amateur imitators, as the original wave of skyjackings had done back in 1968—though one deterrent was the fact that preparing the letter bombs is a dangerous game, requiring a thorough knowledge of explosives. The bombs sent last week to Israelis were presumably mailed by Arab terrorists. The Israeli embassy in London said that one of the envelopes contained a leaflet from the Black September organization, which was responsible for the Munich murders. Black September itself remained silent.

The problem of terrorism, as one result of the letters, dominated the opening session of the 27th United Nations General Assembly last week. Security was so tight at the U.N.'s Manhattan headquarters that delegates from the 132 member nations had to flash passes with photographs to enter the assembly hall. Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim introduced a resolution calling for a halt in "terrorism and other forms of violence which endanger or take innocent human lives." Considerably qualified and softened to placate Arab na tions, the resolution was shunted to the General Assembly's legal committee for further study.

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