The arrest has so alarmed the PLO leader Yasser Arafat that he ordered a review of security and an internal inquiry. He has also asked for an early meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, after the suspect allegedly told his Tunisian interrogators of a plot to set off a car bomb in the street outside Mr Arafat's office.
The Tunisian authorities were put on to the suspect PLO official, Adnan Hassan Yassin, 44, also known as Abu Hani, by a Mercedes packed with Semtex explosives and advanced electronic detonators shipped from France. The French intelligence service tipped off the Tunisians.
When the car arrived in Tunis, it was allegedly cleared through customs by Mr Yassin. Mr Yassin is deputy to the PLO security chief, Hakam Balawi, who is also the organisation's ambassador to Tunisia, host country for PLO headquarters. It is also claimed that Mr Yassin placed listening devices in the organisation's headquarters.
Tunisian agents monitored all his movements for two weeks before arresting him on 25 October. The PLO was given a report of Mr Yassin's activities including supposedly 'damning evidence' that he planted listening devices in the offices of Abu Mazen, who signed the accord with Israel on behalf of the PLO, and of Mr Balawi.
Tunisian security sources said Mr Arafat, who was briefed daily on the results of the interrogation, has asked them not to hand over Mr Yassin to PLO security yet. One Arab diplomat in Tunis suggested that Mr Arafat wanted to keep the accused away from the organisation's security until the inquiry is completed. The PLO official who yesterday confirmed the arrest of Mr Yassin said he believed the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad, recruited Mr Yassin in 1990 in a European capital.
The Palestinian security apparatus has suffered internal rifts in recent years. The former head of Palestinian security, Abu Iyad, was murdered by one of his own bodyguards. Whenever a Palestinian dies a violent death, even at the hand of another Palestinian, there are claims that it was the work of Mossad.
Palestinian sources told the London-based Arabic daily newspaper Asharq al-Awsat that Mr Yassin was claimed to have been passing full reports of top PLO leaders' activities to Mossad 'including video tapes of their private parties'.
Mr Arafat ordered an inquiry to assess the damage caused by Mr Yassin's alleged activities, but Mr Balawi was not included in the security committee which started its investigation last week.
The news of Mr Yassin's arrest has alarmed Palestinians in Tunisia and in the Israeli-occupied territories. He was in charge of the logistics of West Bank residents coming to Tunis to meet the PLO leader. He was also one of the few top PLO officials who had full knowledge of Mr Arafat's movements.Reuse content