Matthew Hagan March 22 1976


Matthew Hagan March 22 1976



Matthew Hagan

The British press loves to dress its villains in nicknames, and a few months ago, when they needed an appropriate moniker for the world’s most wanted man, there was one so handy and apt it might have been made for the occasion. They took it from the main character of the British best-selling thriller, Frederick Forsyth’s The Day Of The Jackal, and they gave it to the man who stands these days at the very pinnacle of world terrorism. In the book he is a blond, blue-eyed Englishman. In real life he is a swarthy, brown-eyed Latin American who also goes by the nickname “Carlos.” Both men have a weakness for pretty women, are fluently multilingual, show a deep admiration for precision, and are absolutely and proudly cold-blooded.

The most disturbing element the two Jackals share is thoroughness: once they set their minds to something, the deed is virtually done. What makes the real Jackal different from the one in Forsyth’s imagination is the futility in trying to predict where he will strike next. We know much of where he’s been but nothing of where he’s going. There is no reading ahead. All we know is that he has promised to strike again. It may be Rome, Paris or London. It may also be Montreal. The near success of the terrorists during the 1972 Munich Olympics makes Montreal a natural target during the 1976 Summer Olympics, and Carlos would be the natural choice to lead such an assault.

There is another difference between the book Jackal and Carlos The Jackal—vanity. “I prefer to bank on my own complete anonymity,” the Jackal of the novel said at one point. “It is the best weapon I have.” Carlos wants none of that humility. “Tell them I’m from Venezuela and my name is Carlos,” he said to a go-between during a raid in December on the Vienna headquarters of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). “Tell them I’m the famous Carlos. They’ll know me.”

He has been scorned as the Jesse James of the Seventies in France, where he is wanted for murder. In Venezuela, where he was born, he has been compared in flattering terms to Simon Bolivar, the hero of the independence wars against Spain. In fact, he is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, 26 years old, tall, athletic-looking and handsome, thickset rather than fat, with brown curly hair. He is said to speak fluent Spanish, English, French, Russian and passable

Arabic and German. He is an insatiable playboy. By their own admission he has had at least four girl friends at the same time over the past many months—two in Paris, two in England—and none of the four is aware of any other’s existence. Their devotion to him is obvious by one example only: when police investigated 24year-old Amparo Silva-Masmela’s apartment at 11 rue d’Amelie in Paris, the quiet Colombian girl who worked in a bank was found to have cached enough of her lover’s explosives to blow the entire apartment house sky-high. He is no romantic creation of a confused youth. Rather, he is the natural result of a deliberate upbringing, a privileged and cosmopolitan development directed and approved of by his parents. Says his father, a wealthy Venezuelan lawyer who believes the only answer lies in a violent, extreme left: “Philosophically and politically I am in total agreement with my son.” Indeed, Carlos seems to have been groomed for the part he has come to play: a precise and destructive instrument in the hands of the violently anti-Israel Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine(PFLP).

For all its power and prestige, the Vienna headquarters of OPEC is a very modest set of offices. It occupies two floors in what cab drivers call the Texaco Building on the Karl Lueger Ring, opposite the old university building. Sunday, December 21, the day of the OPEC oil ministers’ meeting.was bitterly cold in Vienna. The

meeting wasn’t expected to produce much news, but because some big names were there, such as Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, the Saudi Arabian oil minister, some news agency reporters were on hand. Sidney Weiland, Vienna bureau chief of Reuter, and a man from the Associated Press were talking inside the lobby near the elevators. Ron Taggiasco, the Milan correspondent of Business Week was standing outside the front door. Shortly after 11.30 a.m., a group of young people, three or four of them dark complexioned and one in a Basque beret and wearing an open white trench coat over a leather jacket, came to the door and checked with Taggiasco that the conference was still in progress. All of them carried Adidas sports bags. Upstairs on the first floor, two middle-aged policemen, Inspectors Josef Janda and Anton Tichler, were in charge of security. They were in plain clothes and each carried a lightweight Walther PPK. automatic in a quick-draw holster. The group of young people moved up the stairs and to the desk of receptionist Edith Heller. When Heller looked up from her switchboard, she saw two young men, one in a Basque beret and leather jacket and the other in a big fur hat. The one in the leather jacket held a submachine gun, the other, a pistol. The man with the pistol said: “Where is the conference room?” Behind them Tichler had his hands in the air. Then the shooting started. In the next four minutes, three people were killed, two of them by the girl terrorist and one by the young man in the beret who would soon identify himself as Carlos.

The gunfire was so heavy that Edith Heller had to shout into the phone to the police: “This is OPEC. This is OPEC. They’re shooting all over the place.” The first to die was Tichler. He grabbed the barrel of Carlos’ Beretta machine pistol and almost wrenched it from the terrorist’s grip. A surprised Carlos ran off into the reception room. A few moments later, the girl, Gabriele Kroechev-Tiedeman, one of the Baader-Meinhof anarchists, rushed up to Tichler and asked: “Are you a policeman?” Tichler said he was and began to raise his hands. As he did so, the girl took careful aim and shot him in the back of the neck just below the hairline from a distance of about four feet. Tichler fell dying into the elevator. When it reached the ground floor, they found his pistol was still in its holster, unfired. In the confusion that followed Tichler’s death, Ala Hassan Saeed Al Khafari, the 27-year-old bodyguard to the Iraqi oil minister, ran up to grapple with the girl, Kroechev-Tiedeman. He managed to grab the gun she was holding and was attempting to disarm her when she pulled a second pistol and shot him in the face. She later apologized to the Iraqi chargé d’affaires for her murderous breach of diplomatic protocol. The third to die was Yousef Ismirli, a Libyan civil servant who tried to disarm Carlos. The moon-faced terrorist shot him five times in the body and throat. Like his female comrade, Carlos later apologized for having to kill a Libyan. Meanwhile, inside the conference room, the OPEC delegates had hit the floor. The gunmen walked into the room and one of them asked, in English, “Have you found Yamani?” The Saudi oil minister later recalled: “The gunman scanned our faces and as his eyes met mine,

he greeted me sarcastically and identified me to his colleagues.”

Police reaction was swift. A squad of the Einsatz Kommando, in steel helmets, flak jackets and armed with Israeli Uzi submachine guns, surrounded the Texaco Building. Inside Carlos and his five comrades held 70 hostages, including 11 of the most powerful men in the world, the Arab oil ministers. For 20 hours the negotiations dragged on. The terrorists demanded food, medical treatment for one of their wounded and an airplane to fly them first to Algeria and then to Libya. There was a lot of rhetoric about a war of total liberation against Israel and a condemnation of moderate Arab leaders such as Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat. After a long night, they were finally driven to the airport for the flight to Algeria. To the horror of Austrians watching on television, Otto Roesch, the Austrian Interior Minister actually shook hands with Carlos at the airport. Pressed to explain, Roesch said Carlos had been deeply upset that Austria had been dragged into the affair. The terrorists and hostages were loaded onto the plane for the flight to Algeria. At Algiers and Tripoli, the hostages were released in good health and Carlos was hailed as a hero by

the quirky Libyan president Colonel Qaddafi.

Within 24 hours Carlos and his group— which he called the Arm of the Arab Revolution—had demonstrated that terrorism is no longer just a method of getting attention or money but a workable political tool. It is believed the terrorists sought and received an agreement from Saudi Arabia to give up its support for Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and to stop interfering with affairs in Lebanon (where the Saudis and Sadat had up to that time supported the Christians against the extreme left and the Palestinians). Whether the agreement will be kept is not known, of course, but the raid was considered a major victory by the so-called Rejection Front, which includes the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Libya and Iraq, who have said they will settle for nothing less than the complete dismantling of Israel.

The Vienna raid came almost two years to the day after what is believed to have been the young Venezuelan guerrilla’s very first strike. And the difference between the execution of the two plots serves to demonstrate just how far Carlos has come in such a short time. His name first surfaced in England on December 30, 1973, when a hooded man—believed to be Carlos—rang the front door bell of Edward Sieff, president of the Marks and Spencer department store and honorary vice-president of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain. When the butler answered, he was forced by gunpoint to take Carlos to Sieff, who was changing in the bedroom. Carlos put the gun a few inches from SieflPs face, fired and ran. Sieff fell, but did not die. His exceptionally sturdy teeth are believed to have slowed the bullet enough that it failed to kill him. The difference between that hasty, hooded Carlos and the cool, efficient Carlos of the Vienna raid is indicative of his ability to learn new things quickly. It is a knack developed by the circumstances of his early years.

His father named all three of his sons after his idol, Vladimir Ilich Lenin, the father of the Russian revolution. Ilich (Carlos) was born in 1949, Lenin in 1951 and Vladimir in 1958. Dr. Jose Altagracia Ramirez Navas, the father, is a lawyer, now sixtyish and weathered looking, living in the rainy Venezuelan town of San Cristobal. Once he had intended to become a priest, but studied for only two years before realizing it was not for him. He left and went to Bogota, the capital of Colombia, where he studied law. His political ideas were formed under the Colombian populist Jorge Eliecer Gaitan (who

was later murdered) and Gustavo Machado, of the then outlawed Venezuelan Communist Party. Until Nikita Khrushchev came along, he was pro-Soviet, but he decided many years ago that the Communist parties were becoming too conservative, and so began his long drift toward the extreme left. He believes today the change from the capitalist system to the socialist system is possible only through armed struggle, and adds, “My son has turned out to be a general.”

Ironically, the lawyer father who so feverishly embraced Communism also became an extremely wealthy man, probably a millionaire in real estate holdings, and was able to give his sons a cosmopolitan education. With their mother, Elba, from whom the father is now separated, they traveled around Latin America and the Caribbean from the time Ilich was eight years old, always with the best tutors money could buy.

In 1963, when he was 14, Ilich entered the Colegio Fermin Toro, the biggest state school in Caracas, and here his political education probably began. The Venezuelan dictator Perez Jimenez had not been long overthrown and the Liberal govern-

ment of President Romulo Betancourt was being threatened from both right and left. The children from the school were encouraged to demonstrate in support of the banned Communist party, and Ilich undoubtedly had his political awakening at this time. In 1966, Dr. Ramirez decided the time had come for his sons to appreciate the Old World, and he sent them to London, where they took up residence in a hotel in Sussex Gardens, Paddington. Ilich and Lenin, sheltered up to this point by a strict family atmosphere, found themselves young (Carlos was 17 when he arrived) and curious in a city in the throes of a cultural revolution. During the next two years, living in various areas in “swinging” London, they were undoubtedly influenced by the revolutionary ideas of their generation, even if this revolution of culture and ideas bore little resemblance to the revolution Carlos espouses today. It was, apparently, a quiet time for him. He prepared for his college entrance exams and even taught commercial Spanish at a secretarial school. His social life was hardly enviable in those days: he tried, unsuccessfully, to date his own students.

It is not known why the father arrived in England and had his two older sons study Russian from an old émigrée nun and then, in the autumn of 1968, shipped them off to the Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow, but it now stands as the turning point in the politicization of Carlos. Little is known, too, of the boys’ stay in Moscow, but the father has said it was during this period that Carlos came to loathe Soviet Communism. One reason was personal, another political. In the first instance, Carlos came under criticism for his notorious debauchery: in contrast to his social life in London, the Latin American was regarded as an exotic catch by Russian girls, and he cashed in on his newfound popularity. He spent far more time chasing women than he did pursuing the well-directed political activities offered by the university authorities. In the second instance, he attended a demonstration in the spring of 1969 outside the embassy of a French-speaking African country that had refused to renew the passports of its young nationals studying at Carlos’ schooi. The police had cordoned off the area to keep foreign students away, but Carlos slipped through, became embroiled in a running fight with the police and threw an ink bottle at the embassy. It missed, but Carlos was caught and eventually let off with a caution. That summer, while home on holidays, he developed a stomach ulcer, which required several months hospital treatment. The university gave him a leave of absence, but it was well into 1970 before he returned to Moscow and by then he was behind in school and unhappy. It must have shown, for he was soon censured by the Moscow membership of the Venezuelan Communist Party and not long after that expelled from the school. It is thought by many to have been his last contact with the Soviet system.

The details of Carlos’ life from the time of his expulsion from school to his surfacing in December, 1973, as the executioner assigned to eliminate Edward Sieff are even more hazy. It is believed, though, that he spent two years or more traveling extensively around the Middle East and then, in 1973, enrolled for a term at the London School of Economics, after which he wrote his parents, declaring he was finished with “formal education.”

In July, 1973, the Algerian terrorist leader Mohamed Boudia was blown up in his car in Paris, presumably by Israeli agents. Later that month, a young man calling himself Carlos Martinez arrived in Paris to take over Boudia’s terrorist unit, a cell that consisted of about eight people. That Carlos was selected to lead this important unit is a tribute to the expertise in terrorism he must have shown during those two previous years. During that time he had come under the influence of Dr. George Habash, the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, whose main support comes from Libya’s leader, Colonel Qaddafi. (Qaddafi, interestingly, is almost fanatical in his anticommunism crusade, which is said to be a natural result of his puritanical devotion to Islam.)

Carlos has likely never met Qaddafi himself, because Habash, the PFLP leader, is thought not to trust the Libyan leader: he believes Qaddafi’s anti-Communism has inevitably led Libya to secret deals with the United States, a country much despised by the PFLP for its continued support of Israel. The PFLP and the rest of the Rejection Front, Libya and Iraq, are constantly at odds with the majority of the Arab world— composed of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and the terrorist group that used to be the most feared, Yassir Arafat’s Palestine Liber-

ation Organization (PLO), who say they would be willing to settle for a mini-Palestine consisting of the West Bank and Gaza. The Rejection Front will have none of this. They want to eliminate Israel completely, hence the raid on the OPEC headquarters in Vienna. The actual logistics of that raid were likely the brainchild of Dr. Wadi Haddad, the middle-aged operational chief of the PFLP and Dr. Habash’s main thinker. It has been Haddad over the past five years who has linked the Arab terrorist group to similarly violent gangs such as the Japanese Red Army and the BaaderMeinhof anarchists in West Germany. In 1971 it was Haddad who invited certain young people from all over Europe to a guerrilla seminar at a PFLP camp in southern Lebanon. Carlos was one who came. He was obviously impressed.

Whenever he came to the attention of Habash and Haddad, it is clear that Carlos received extensive training from them until July, 1973, when he arrived in Paris as the new head of Commando Boudia, the unit of the late Algerian terrorist. Not long after his arrival the unit fled temporarily to London, when it seemed the French security service (DST) was closing in on them. And it was in London, on January 25,1974, a month after Carlos’ failed execution of Edward Sieff, that the Israeli Bank of Hapoalim was bombed. Witnesses claimed it was Carlos who opened the doors and tossed the bomb inside. In the spring of 1974 Commando Boudia returned to Paris, where things had cooled off, and in August they set off car bombs in front of the offices of the Jewish L'Arche.

Later that month the French DST made an important arrest at Orly airport: Yukuka Furaya, the Japanese Red Army courier and paymaster. The JRA, anxious to get Furaya back, turned to the PFLP, asking them to return the favor for the JRA’S May, 1972, massacre at Lod Airport, and the PFLP alerted Carlos to do what he could to obtain Furaya’s release. Carlos and his devoted follower, Michel Wahab Moukharbel, cased the French Embassy at The Hague for the JRA. The raid took place on September 13. On September 15 Carlos lobbed an M26 grenade into the Drugstore, a Paris café, and thereby caused the embassy siege to end in the JRA’S favor. As with all things Carlos The Jackal plans, it was a success: Furaya was released and the JRA flew from Holland to Syria with a $300,000 ransom to boot.

A three-month hiatus followed the café bombing, but toward the end of 1974 the cell smuggled into Paris some highly sophisticated rocket-launching RPG 7S (a Soviet version of the antitank bazooka) and a three-man Palestine team to operate them. Twice in the same week in January, 1975, they tried to explode an El AÍ plane at Orly by aiming at the fuel tanks, but the attacks failed. Neither time was Carlos himself involved.

Carlos and the faithful Moukharbel traveled around Europe for several months early last year. Moukharbel also went to the Middle East, and in June he returned with disturbing news: he had been picked up by the Lebanese security service and interrogated for a day and a night in Beirut. Moukharbel said a foreigner had sat in on the talks and listened quietly, and he thought perhaps the foreigner might be an American CIA man. Carlos reacted furiously, believing his friend had been a fool not to realize he had likely been released on CIA advice in order that he might lead them to the Paris cell. Carlos cooly decided to stand his ground, assume the persona of a Venezuelan play boy and lay low, while Moukharbel loyally ran to London to draw the hounds off. Sent back by the British Special Branch. Moukharbel was eventually arrested by the French DST on June 23. Two days later he broke.

On June 27 Carlos was at girl friend Nancy Sanchez’s flat in the Latin Quarter of Paris. They were staging a farewell party for her. After four years studying anthropology at the Sorbonne, she was going home to Venezuela to study a remote Indian tribe. She had already left for the airport that evening when Moukharbel and three DST agents arrived, for some reason none of them armed. Carlos, who answered the door, appeared to be totally drunk. The agents asked him to accompany them to their offices for some questioning, and Carlos said he would come along if he could go to the washroom first.

They agreed. When he came out he was not only more sober, he had a Russian automatic in his hand, and in less than 10 seconds all three agents were down, two of them dead. Carlos then turned the gun on his friend and murdered him. The next time he turned up was in Vienna.

There has been much speculation since then as to who actually employs Carlos The Jackal. The PFLP connection is certain, but there are probably others paying his way. The most obvious is Libya, because of the connection between Colonel Qaddafi and the PFLP. In February the London Sunday Telegraph reported that its African correspondent had been told by a disenchanted member of the Libyan government that President Qaddafi had organized the OPEC seizure. Carlos, the informer said, was relaxing at a seaside villa put at his disposal by the Libyan secret service, and it was further maintained that Qaddafi had given Carlos a reward of two million dollars for the successful raid. Hans-Joachim Klein, the guerrilla wounded in the stomach during the raid and brought back to Libya by the terrorists for hospital treatment, was supposed to have received $200,000 from Qaddafi for compensation for his wound. How reliable this report is, however, is not known.

There are two other theories. Unconfirmed rumors in Beirut suggest that the Saudi Arabian oil minister and an Iranian official were destined to die in the Vienna

raid but were spared only after a very large sum of money was paid into a bank in Aden. It may well be that Dr. Habash and Dr. Haddad of the PFLP did plan the raid to achieve some financial freedom from the whims of the mercurial Colonel Qaddafi, whom they are known to distrust. The last theory is the most outlandish. Certain Western intelligence experts maintain that Carlos, despite the many stories to the contrary, has kept up a connection with the Kremlin, albeit heavily disguised. It is known that he met frequently with various Cuban secret service agents while he headed his cell in Paris, and that the meetings only ceased after the French DST succeeded in having the Cubans expelled. Those who support this theory say the Cuban secret service is no more than a conduit for the Soviet KGB. Politically, the Soviets are anti-PFLP and pro-PLO and the moderate Arab states who want a “mini-Palestine.” If, however, the Soviets are secretly in cahoots with Carlos, it adds weight to the argument of those who maintain that the Kremlin encourages terrorist groups just to keep Western democracies in a constant state of siege.

The Jackal of Frederick Forsyth’s book worked for himself, so he and Carlos were different in that respect. And so far they are different in another, as well: in the book the killer is finally tracked down, w hereas the next chapter on Carlos has yet to be written.