WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Abu Abbas, the Palestinian terrorist who masterminded the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro in the Mediterranean Sea, has been arrested by U.S. personnel in Iraq.
Abbas was arrested about 50 miles west of Baghdad after being turned away from Iraq's border with Syria, a Palestinian source told CNN.
The hijacking of the ship led to the killing of disabled passenger Leon Klinghoffer, an American Jew. Klinghoffer was shot in his wheelchair and thrown overboard by Abbas' men.
In April 1996, Abbas -- whose actual name is Muhammad Abbas -- admitted to the hijacking and apologized. "We are sorry," he said after returning to Gaza after years in exile. Abbas said the hijacking was a mistake and admitted that he and guerrillas who took part were on their way to Israel to wage terrorist attacks.
A warrant for Abbas' arrest is outstanding in Italy, where he was convicted and sentenced to five life terms in absentia in connection with the hijacking, according to the U.S. State Department.
The Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), headed by Abbas and based in Iraq, is officially designated by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization. In an October speech in Cincinnati, Ohio, President Bush accused Iraq of providing Abbas with safe haven.
Abbas was a member of the Palestinian National Congress and occasionally traveled to the Palestinian territories.