Inexorable Violence 2: Carlos The Jackal

Just before 12 o’clock on the 21st of December, 1975,  a six-member terror squad stormed a conference of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in Vienna. During a gunfight, an Austrian detective, an Iraqi security officer and the Libyan delegate Jusuf al-Azmarly were killed. A man later identified as the terrorist Hans-Joachim Klein was wounded. The terrorists, under the leadership of Ilich Ramirez Sanchez alias “Carlos” took about 70 hostages, among whom are eleven oil-ministers from OPEC countries.

The plan was to ransom most of the ministers for the cash the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) desperately needed, but to murder the ministers representing Saudi Arabia and Iran, because those two countries were insufficiently dedicated to the Palestinian cause and to the cause of higher oil prices.  Eventually the terrorists flew to Algeria with their hostages, all of whom were released after a ransom was paid, estimated at between $20 and $50 million.

Carlos was forced out of the PFLP by Wadi Haddad shortly after the OPEC kidnapping because he ransomed the Saudi and Iranian ministers instead of killing them, and because he was suspected of keeping part of the ransom for himself.

After leaving the PFLP, Carlos started up a sort of terrorist-for-hire business that he succinctly called "Organization of the Armed Arab Struggle–Arm of the Arab Revolution." In fact, it had nothing to do with the Arab struggle and everything to do with lining his own pockets. During this time he operated mostly out of eastern Europe, but traveled on diplomatic passports helpfully provided by various Arab nations, such as Syria and South Yemen. The Soviet satellites mostly tolerated his presence (perhaps fearing repercussions if they turned him away), but they did little to actively help him. An exception was Romania, whose secret police (the Securitate) hired him to kill Romanian dissidents in France and to blow up the Radio Free Europe offices in Munich.

In 1982, his wife Magdalena Kopp was arrested in Paris for possession of explosives and was sentenced to four years in prison. Carlos began a terror campaign to pressure France into freeing her, and over the next several years he bombed civilian targets inside France and French diplomatic targets overseas. More than twenty people were killed, but it did not suffice to free his wife. She was released a few months early in 1985, but that was because of good behavior on her part, not her husband’s terror bombings. Her release seems to have marked the end of his direct involvement in terrorism.  He and his wife moved to Damascus, but Syria forced him to give up terrorism after the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103. A few reports had hinted at his participation in that attack, but they turned out to be false.

Hoping for better relations with the West, Syria passed on his new location (Sudan) to the U.S. The CIA sent agents to Khartoum to verify his presence there, and then alerted the French. In return for Iran’s influence in getting Carlos from Sudan, France–in violation of treaty terms–released two Iranian terrorists instead of extraditing them to Switzerland where they were wanted for murder. Under pressure from Iran, Sudan agreed to help. It didn’t hurt that France sold Sudan military communications equipment it needed for its civil war when other Western countries wouldn’t.

While Carlos was still groggy from surgery for a painful varicocele, the Sudanese government told him of a murder plot against him and whisked away to a country house outside Khartoum. Later, away from witnesses, he was drugged, handcuffed, put into a sack, and taken to the airport where the French DST picked him up and flew him to France. This French operation was strictly illegal, since there was no extradition agreement, and the arrest warrant was invalid outside France. This little technicality was swept under the rug easily enough. The authorities maintained the fiction that Carlos had drugged and handcuffed himself, tied himself in the sack, and boarded the plane of his own free will.  He has remained in French custody to this day.

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