Trail of the Jackal is traced to Yemen

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THE MYSTERY of where Carlos the Jackal was hiding these past years deepened yesterday with publication of photographs of a South Yemeni diplomatic passport with a false name but bearing his picture. There were reports that he had been residing in Yemen before his departure for Sudan, from where he was grabbed and sent to Paris.

The passport, number 005003, was made out to Abdurabo Ali Mohamed. The title page was printed with the insignia of the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) overstamped with the words The Republic of Yemen - the name of the unified Yemen after the PDRY joined with the north in 1990.

According to the London-based Saudi-owned Arabic newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, which published the photographs, the passport was issued to Carlos and another to his wife and child, by the Yemeni embassy in Damascus. It had been stated earlier that Carlos was travelling on a forged Arab diplomatic passport.

The Marxist PDRY had over the years provided a haven for remnants of groups with which Carlos had co-operated, including the Japanese Red Army and the Red Army Faction. The suggestion that Carlos had been resident in Yemen may deflect criticism from Syria, which had been suspected of having harboured him for years.

Certainly his presence in Syria was of no political benefit to President Hafez al-Assad. Mr Assad is fundamentally a man of state power with a dislike of irregulars. He is unimpressed by Marxist and other ideologies. Since the Hendawi affair in 1986, when Syrian agents controlled a Palestinian who tried to blow up an Israeli airliner over London, he has sought to present a more moderate, statesmanlike image to the world. He expelled Abu Nidal in 1987 and there are reports he threw out Carlos in 1992.

Damascus is home to 10 Palestinian groups opposed to the peace process with Israel, even though Syria is engaged in a dialogue of sorts with Israel. But Mr Assad would never allow these groups to interfere with his grander schemes. These groups simply give Mr Assad another bargaining chip with the Israelis.

Yesterday one of them, the Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), expressed its solidarity with Carlos.