Ceausescu, Wife Reported Executed : Secret Trial Condemned Dictator; Bucharest Calm : Romania: The army announces plans for a ‘final offensive’ against the security forces loyal to the ex-ruler.
Former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, were executed Monday after a secret trial, state television announced, as the capital that Ceausescu long had terrorized settled into an uneasy calm.
Throughout the day, Romanian television and radio broadcasts reported that Ceausescu was being held in an undisclosed location. His whereabouts had been the subject of rumor and speculation since Friday, when he fled the capital in the face of mass demonstrations.
Shortly before 9 p.m. local time (11 a.m. PST), the television, which had been broadcasting a symphony concert, broke into its program for an announcement read by a solemn man wearing a suit and the red, blue and yellow armband of the National Salvation Front, as the provisional government is known.
Ceausescu, the announcer said, had been tried and convicted by “an extraordinary military court” of “particularly grave crimes against Romania,” including “genocide, subversion of the state, theft of public assets, destruction of the national economy and an attempt to escape.” The genocide charge, the announcer said, was based on an estimated 60,000 killings during the dictator’s rule.
“The sentence was death, and the sentence was carried out,” the announcer said.
Film shown early today on Romanian television showed the Ceausescus before their execution, being brought to an undisclosed location in an armored car, wire services reported. The film was the first of Ceausescu to be shown since the provisional government announced his capture Saturday.
Ceausescu, dressed in a dark suit and a heavy black overcoat, looked gaunt and tired but smiled as a man in a white coat checked his blood pressure. His wife looked forlorn as she sat against a wall, dressed in a beige fur-lined coat with her head covered peasant-style in a scarf. The execution itself was not shown.
The reported execution came as the army announced plans for a “final offensive” against the pro-Ceausescu security forces who have carried on guerrilla warfare throughout the capital and cities elsewhere in the country since the dictator’s downfall.
Monday was the first day since then to pass with relatively little shooting in Bucharest. The capital’s tense atmosphere eased, if only slightly, as many civilians appeared to have heeded army orders to turn in weapons they had been using at makeshift roadblocks around the city.
Britain’s Independent Television News reported from Bucharest early today that a dozen Ceausescu loyalists were gunned down by the army when they attacked a Ministry of Defense building where they believed Ceausescu was being held. It was not clear from the report exactly when the rescue attempt was made.
ITN showed film of three bullet-riddled vehicles that apparently had been used in the raid. A body was slumped over the steering wheel of one of the vehicles, and two others appeared to have been burned.
Reporting from Romanian television’s Bucharest studio, ITN correspondent Paul Davies called the situation in the capital “very tense. . . . Everyone is waiting to see how those remaining supporters will react to Ceausescu’s execution.”
Meanwhile, the city’s airport reopened for cargo planes, allowing medical supplies from several Western nations to be airlifted in. The army appears to have cleared the airport of agents of the Securitate, Ceausescu’s secret police and private army, although the effort reportedly has cost scores, if not hundreds, of lives.
Overall, the national death toll from the fighting remained unknown. Romanian television early Monday broadcast the figure of 70,000 dead and more than 300,000 injured, but then quickly retracted those numbers.
But whatever the exact number, it is already clear that the fighting has been the bloodiest in Europe since the civil war in Greece ended four decades ago. Morgues in the capital are full, and mass graves continue to be unearthed in the western city of Timisoara, where the revolution against Ceausescu began last week.
Holdouts of the Securitate security police continued to disrupt life in Timisoara, where gunfire punctuated Christmas all day.
Fighting was reported particularly intense near the central Continental Hotel, and ITN reported a gunfight lasting several hours in a nearby construction yard between army troops and about 50 Ceausescu loyalists.
“The Securitate seem capable of taking on the army just when and where they please,” reported ITN’s Colin Baker from Timisoara.
A wounded man identified as a Securitate agent was shown, apparently unconscious in a hospital bed, his body held down with heavy rope netting intended to keep him from escaping.
Romanian television also showed film of army tanks standing guard in the Transylvanian countryside, where the Securitate is considered to be particularly strong thanks to Ceausescu’s determination to keep close tabs on the Hungarian minority living there.
It also showed street fighting in Brasov, which was the site of earlier anti-government unrest, in 1987.
A train ride from Timisoara to Bucharest, normally a nine-hour trip, took 15 hours. The train halted for three hours outside Bucharest because of reports of shooting at the train station in the capital.
The rugged Transylvanian Alps and the Danube Plain between Timisoara and Bucharest appeared quiet but jumpy. Citizen patrols could be seen in every village, stopping cars at central intersections and searching for weapons. There were few signs of Christmas cheer.
As word of Ceausescu’s reported execution spread through the train, the conductor burst into a compartment occupied by three American journalists. As he told about the report, he pointed at his head with his index finger and made a popping noise, then giggled uncontrollably.
Train stations displayed Romanian flags with gaping holes at their center, where the Communist emblem had been ripped from the cloth. Ceausescu slogans urging greater productivity and national pride had been blacked out or defaced.
At the north station in Bucharest, people huddled in darkened waiting rooms as sporadic small-arms fire rattled in the distance. A sign painted on one of the station’s billboards in crude, white letters urged citizens to “avoid disorder.”
Bucharest’s still-functioning subway system, once the pride of the Ceausescu regime, was in the control of youngsters between the ages of 12 and 18. They wore white paper badges with their names scribbled on them. They stopped passengers and searched baggage and, like characters from Dickens, scurried in the shadows, scanning the rooftops for snipers.
Although the situation in Bucharest had improved, the scene here was calm only in relative terms. Shooting in Bucharest continued until shortly before 3 a.m. Monday, then resumed shortly after dawn.
And today, there could be heavy fighting once again when the army, which moved reinforcements into the city throughout Monday, plans to begin its last push against the remaining Securitate strongholds. Army officials ordered civilians in three neighborhoods of Bucharest to evacuate their homes to clear the way for the offensive.
One of those neighborhoods surrounds the national television broadcast station, which has been the scene of some of the heaviest fighting over the last several days and which continued to be the location of sporadic shooting Monday.
In the central area of the city, the day remained mostly quiet, but at roughly 7:30 p.m., the flares of tracer bullets and the sound of .50-caliber machine-gun fire split the night air as a brief but intense barrage broke out near the downtown Plaza of the Republic. The plaza is the site of Romania’s former Communist Party headquarters, now being used as the army command post. The area is widely believed to be honeycombed with tunnels that Securitate agents reportedly have used as ammunition dumps and hideaways.
Two more embassies evacuated dependents during the day, with the Soviets sending out more than 100 of their citizens and the British evacuating 21 people who had spent Christmas Eve as refugees in the heavily guarded U.S. Embassy.
Overall, the army now appeared to have clearly established its reign throughout the city. And across the country, from Jasi near the Soviet border to Timisoara, pro-Ceausescu forces were surrendering to the army, according to Romanian radio and television.
In addition, the National Salvation Front felt secure enough Monday to begin organizing the provisional government that will start the arduous task of rebuilding a nation that has been economically and spiritually devastated by one of the world’s last remaining totalitarian regimes.
Already, the basic elements of a new political order have been coalescing in the form of new newspapers and neighborhood committees that have established checkpoints across the city.
The newspapers--Free Romania, Free Youth and Spark of the People--were spread throughout the city by a unique distribution system in which men tossed piles of newspapers off the backs of trucks as they drove down major boulevards. Crowds ran eagerly into the street to pick up copies.
The papers carried communiques from the National Salvation Front, articles exhorting the population to remain disciplined and vigilant and messages praising the progress of the national revolution.
The committees, meanwhile, loosely organized into networks in each of Bucharest’s eight districts, have been charged with maintaining security in the capital.
In major factories across the city, workers have formed organizations that dispatch men and women to staff checkpoints and barricades to search for weapons and Securitate agents.
“We have to find the terrorists who are in possession of arms,” said 55-year-old Petr Purcea, an inspector from the government’s energy department, who is in charge of checkpoints near the television station.
“There is a vacuum of political power,” added another man staffing one of the barricades. “The army and the political committees are managing the situation for the moment.”
Times staff writer Rone Tempest, in Bucharest, contributed to this story.
RUTHLESS RULER--Ceausescu built cruel family dynasty, resisted change. A13
GOVERNMENT BACKED--White House recognizes new leaders, decries executions. A13