5 April 1986: On this day in Berlin history, at approximately 1:40 am, a 2-kilogram bomb exploded in the La Belle nightclub located at Hauptstrasse 78, in the district of Friedenau, West Berlin.
The bomb killed 2 US soldiers – Sgt. Kenneth Ford (died on scene) and Sgt. James Goins – in addition to a Turkish national, Nermin Hannay. Another 229 people were wounded from the blast, while numerous other survivors suffered symptoms of post-traumatic stress in the years following the attack.
While the United States quickly suspected that the attack was organized by Libya’s leader Col. Muhammed Gaddafi, the specific details of the attack, including the identities of the perpetrators would not come to light until after German reunification in 1990.
Following reunification, documents from the East German State Security Office (Stasi) revealed that the attack had been carried out by German-born Verena Chanaa and her younger sister Andrea Häusler. They deposited the bomb in a travel bag and left the club 5 minutes before it detonated.
However, the attack was supposedly organized by 3 Libyan Embassy employees: Libyan Musbah Eter, Palistinian Yasser Shraydi and Lebanese-born German Ali Chanaa. Documents from the former Stasi archives now reveal that Eter was an unofficial employee of the Stasi and in fact had scouted out 3 West Berlin clubs as possible targets. La Belle was ultimately chosen because of its popularity with American soldiers and tourists alike.
The Stasi was said to have knowledge of the attack a full week prior to the bombing and it is believed that the Stasi either directly supplied explosives to the perpetrators or tacitly allowed their transport from East to West Berlin.
In 2001, Verena and Ali Chanaa, along with Shraydi and Eter were sentenced to between 12-14 years imprisonment for their roles in the La Belle Bombing.
This edition of On This Day in Berlin History was written by BBS Member and tour guide, Elizabeth Mason. It’s one of four events she has chosen to remember this month. Keep an eye on the blog to see what else makes the cut.