West Berlin discotheque bombing

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West Berlin discotheque bombing
Part of terrorism in Germany
Roxy frontal.jpg
Roxy-Palast, the building in which the discotheque La Belle was located
LocationHauptstraße 78, West Berlin, West Germany
Coordinates52°28′23″N 13°20′12″E / 52.47306°N 13.33667°E / 52.47306; 13.33667
Date5 April 1986; 35 years ago (1986-04-05)
1:45 a.m. (CET/CEST)
Attack type
WeaponsPlastic explosive
Deaths3 (2 US soldiers, 1 Turkish civilian)[1]
PerpetratorsVerena Chanaa, Yasir Shraydi, Musbah Eter, Ali Chanaa
Memorial plaque reading, "On the 5th of April, 1986, young people were murdered inside this building by a criminal bombing."

On 5 April 1986, three people were killed and 229 injured when La Belle discothèque was bombed in the Friedenau district of West Berlin. The entertainment venue was commonly frequented by United States soldiers, and two of the dead and 79 of the injured were Americans.[1]

A bomb placed under a table near the disc jockey's booth exploded at 01:45 CET, instantly killing Nermin Hannay, a Turkish woman, and US Army sergeant Kenneth T. Ford. A second US Army sergeant, James E. Goins, died from his injuries two months later.[2][3] Some of the victims were left permanently disabled due to the injuries caused by the explosion.[1]

Libya was accused by the US government of sponsoring the bombing, and US President Ronald Reagan ordered retaliatory strikes on Tripoli and Benghazi in Libya ten days later. The operation was widely seen as an attempt to kill Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.[4] A 2001 trial in the US found that the bombing had been "planned by the Libyan Intelligence Service and the Libyan embassy".[1]

Blame and retribution[edit]

Libya was blamed for the bombing after Telex messages from Tripoli to the country's embassy in East Berlin congratulating them on a job well done were intercepted.[5] President Ronald Reagan retaliated by ordering airstrikes against the Libyan capital of Tripoli and city of Benghazi. At least 30 soldiers and 15 civilians were killed.[5][6][7] A 2001 trial in the US found that the bombing had been "planned by the Libyan secret service and the Libyan Embassy".[1]

Trial and conviction[edit]

In spite of reports blaming Libya for the attack on the nightclub, no individual was officially accused of the bombing until the 1990 reunification of Germany and the subsequent opening up of the Stasi archives.[5] Stasi files led German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis to Musbah Abdulghasem Eter, a Libyan who had worked at the Libyan embassy in East Berlin. Stasi files listed him as an agent, and Mehlis said he was the Libyan spy agency's main contact at the embassy.[5]

Eter and four other suspects were arrested in 1996 in Lebanon, Italy, Greece, and Berlin, and put on trial a year later. In 2001, Eter and two Palestinians, Yasser Mohammed Chreidi (or Yassar Al-Shuraidi or Yassir Chraidi) and Ali Chanaa were convicted in Berlin's Landgericht[8] of aiding in murder, and Chanaa's former German wife, Verena, was convicted of murder. They were given sentences of 12 to 14 years in prison.[9]

Prosecutor Mehlis proved beyond reasonable doubt that the three men had assembled the bomb in the Chanaas' flat. The explosive was said to have been brought into West Berlin in a Libyan diplomatic bag.[10] Verena Chanaa and her sister, Andrea Häusler, carried it into the La Belle in a travel bag and left five minutes before it exploded.[5] Ms Häusler was acquitted because it could not be proven that she knew a bomb was in the bag.[citation needed]

Background to the bombing[edit]

The judge, Peter Marhofer, said it was not clear whether Gaddafi or Libyan intelligence had actually ordered the attack, though there were indications that they had. Two weeks before the bombing, Gaddafi called for Arab assaults on American interests worldwide after a U.S.-Libyan naval clash in the Mediterranean, in which 35 seamen on a Libyan patrol boat in the western Gulf of Sidra were killed in international waters claimed by the Libyan government.[1]

Chreidi was extradited from Lebanon to Germany in 1996 in connection with the bombing.[11] He had been working for the Libyan Peoples' Bureau in East Berlin at the time of the bombing. Chreidi was said to have connections with Palestinian fighter Abu Nidal, who used to live in Tripoli and was financed by Libya in the 1980s. Eter was reported to be the Libyan spy agency's point man at the embassy in East Berlin.[12][13]


On 17 August 2003, newspapers reported that Libya had signaled to the German government that it was ready to negotiate compensation for the bombing with lawyers for non-U.S. victims.[14] A year later, on 10 August 2004, Libya concluded an agreement to pay a total of $35 million compensation to non-US citizens[15]

In October 2008, Libya paid $1.5 billion into a fund to compensate relatives of:

  1. Lockerbie bombing victims with the remaining 20% of the sum agreed in 2003;
  2. American victims of the West Berlin discotheque bombing;
  3. American victims of the 1989 UTA Flight 772 bombing; and,
  4. Libyan victims of the 1986 US bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Erlanger, Steven (14 November 2001). "4 Guilty in Fatal 1986 Berlin Disco Bombing Linked to Libya". New York Times. Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  2. ^ "Second U.S. Soldier Dies from Disco Bombing". AP News. The Associated Press. 8 June 1986. Retrieved 12 February 2020.
  3. ^ "Body of disco victim flown home for burial". Newark Star-Ledger. 10 June 1986. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  4. ^ "Flashback: The Berlin disco bombing". BBC News. 13 November 2001. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d e Malinarich, Nathalie (13 November 2001). "Flashback: The Berlin disco bombing". BBC News.
  6. ^ 1986: US launches air strikes on Libya| bbc.co.uk
  7. ^ Apr 14, 1986: U.S. bombs Libya Archived 3 September 2018 at the Wayback Machine This Day in History
  8. ^ 39. Große Strafkammer des Landgerichts Berlin
  9. ^ "afrol News – 'La Belle' verdict favours Libya". Retrieved 23 December 2016.
  10. ^ "BGH 5 StR 306/03 – 24. Juni 2004 (LG Berlin) · hrr-strafrecht.de". Retrieved 23 December 2016.
  11. ^ "World News Briefs;Lebanon Hands Suspect Over to German Court". New York Times. 24 May 1996.
  12. ^ Beirut liefert aus : Textarchiv : Berliner Zeitung Archiv
  13. ^ Anker, Jens. "Entschädigung nach 18 Jahren". Retrieved 23 December 2016.
  14. ^ GmbH, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. "Aktuelle Nachrichten online". Retrieved 23 December 2016.
  15. ^ "German Missions in the United States – Home". Archived from the original on 28 August 2008. Retrieved 23 December 2016.
  16. ^ "Libya compensates terror victims". BBC News. 31 October 2008. Retrieved 1 November 2008.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°28′23″N 13°20′12″E / 52.47306°N 13.33667°E / 52.47306; 13.33667