Friday 31 May 2013



Terrorism has been in the world for a very long time.  Terrorism goes back at least two thousand years when the Sicarii Zealots, an extremist group was active in Judaea Province (What is now modern day Israel) at the beginning of the 1st century AD. Terrorism nevertheless is still with us now in the Twenty-First Century and it was certainly with us in 1972 when members of the Black September terrorist organization murdered Israeli competitors at the Olympic Games in Munich, Germany. I will explain what happened in that massacre later in this article.


Terrorism is not a subject that is easy to define. For example, was terrorism justified when two Czech and Slovak partisans shot and killed Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi governor of Czechoslovakia during the Second World War? Some scholars consider the Allied deliberate bombardment of civilian populations in Germany during the Second World War as a form of state terror.  The Viet Minh, in Viet Nam for example, which had fought against the Japanese during the Second World War, later after the war ended, they fought the returning French colonists and won. Where they all terrorists? I don’t think so.


What motivates modern-day terrorists?  For many terrorists who are members of terrorist organizations, the United States, and to a lesser extent, European industrial democracies are viewed by the terrorists as threats against their religious values, their traditional ways of life along with their moral codes. Many Muslim terrorists are suicide bombers and are prepared to kill the so-called infidels in this manner. 


The terrorist’s durability and its increasing lethality is become the scourge of this era mainly because of religious zealotry and/or the attempt to overthrow current governments and then change the ways that they will demand of the populace to conduct themselves.   


In this series on terrorism, I will describe the various terrorist groups alphabetically, beginning with the letter A.  


Abu Nidal


This terrorist was born as Sabri Khalil al-Banna in May 1937 in the Israeli city of Jaffa. He raised his large family in luxury in a three-storey stone house near the beach, now used as an Israeli military court.

He was the founder of Fatah which was the revolutionary council that was a militant Palestinian splinter group also known as the Abu Nidal Organization (ANO). At the height of his power in the 1970s and 1980s, Abu Nidal, who was referred to by his followers as the Father of the Struggle was widely regarded as the most ruthless of the Palestinian political leaders. He told Der Spiegel (German newspaper) in a rare interview in 1985: “I am the evil spirit which moves around only at night causing nightmares.”


Abu Nidal was the leader of ANO, that was a renegade Palestinian terrorist group responsible for a string of atrocities in the 1980s and 1990s, His terrorist organization carried out terrorist attacks on 20 countries, killing 228 and injuring many victims. The countries that suffered from ANO terrorist attacks included the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Israel and various Arab countries. Even his fellow Palestinians were his victims.


Abu Nidal was a nondescript figure, often in poor health and shabbily dressed in a zip-up jacket and old trousers. In his later years, he drank whisky every night, and seemed to prefer his own company, living like a mole, lonely and isolated. When he was in Saudi Arabia, he helped found a small group of young Palestinians who called themselves the Palestine Secret Organization. His political activism and vocal denunciation of Israel drew the attention of his employer, Aramco, which fired him.  Soon after, the Saudi government imprisoned, tortured, and expelled him as an unwelcome radical. He returned to Nablus with his wife and young family, and it was around this time that he joined Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction of the PLO, although the exact timing and circumstances are unknown. He worked as an odd-job man until June 1967, committed to Palestinian politics but not particularly active, until Israel won the 1967 Six-Day War in which they captured the Golan Heights, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip.


He moved to Amman, Jordan, setting up a trading company called Impex, and joined the Fatah underground, who then asked him to choose a nom de guerre. He chose Abu Nidal. It is customary in the Arab world for men to call themselves “father of” (Abu). He also chose that name Abu because the word means father of the struggle. Nidal is the first name of his first son so the terrorist used his son’s first name as his own last name.


Impex soon became a front for Fatah activities, serving as a meeting place for members and as a conduit for funds with which to pay them. This was to become a hallmark of Abu Nidal's business career. Companies controlled by the ANO made him a rich man by engaging in legitimate business deals, while acting as cover for his political violence and his multi-million-dollar arms deals, mercenary activities, and protection rackets.


Seeing that Abu Nidal had a talent for organization, Abu Iyad, the Fatah leader appointed him in 1968 as the Fatah representative in Khartoum, Sudan and then then to the same position in Baghdad in July 1970, just two months before September 1968 when King Hussein's army drove the Palestinian fedayeen out of Jordan, with the loss of between 5,000 and 10,000 Palestinian lives in just ten days. (The fadayeen are associated with the role of resistance against occupation) Abu Nidal was absence from Jordan during this period when it became clear to him that King Hussein was about to force the Palestinians out of Jordan. This as expected raised the suspicion within the Palestinian movement that he was interested only in saving his own skin.


Shortly after King Hussein expelled the Palestinians, Abu Nidal began broadcasting criticism of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) over Voice of Palestine, the PLO's own radio station in Iraq, accusing them of cowardice for having agreed to a ceasefire with Hussein. During Fatah's Third Congress in Damascus in 1971, he emerged as the leader of a leftist alliance against Arafat who was the chairman of the PLO. Together with Palestinian intellectual Naji Allush and Abu Daoud—one of Fatah's most ruthless commanders, who was later involved in the 1972 kidnapping and killing of 11 Israeli athletes at the Olympic Village in Munich, Abu Nidal called for Arafat to be overthrown as an enemy of the Palestinian people, and demanded more democracy within Fatah, as well as violent revenge against King Hussein. It was the last Fatah congress Abu Nidal would attend, but he had made his mark.


In 1982, the ANO killed six people in attack on a Parisian restaurant that was popular with French Jews. In 1984, they assassinated a British diplomat in Athens, Ken Whitty and Assassinated British deputy high commissioner in Bombay, Percy Norris. In 1985, they kidnapped British journalist Alec Collett, who was working for UN in Beirut. Collett was later found dead hanging on a gallows. They also bombed the office of British Airways in Madrid, killing a woman.  Further, that year, they highjacked an Egypt Air flight from Athens to Cairo and forced to land in Malta. Six passengers were killed before commandos stormed plane. Then 58 passengers died in the raid. Also eighteen people were killed in attacks on airline counters in Rome and Vienna airports. The ANO’s most notorious attacks were on the El Al ticket counters at Rome and Vienna airports in December 1985, when his followers high on amphetamines opened fire on passengers in simultaneous shootings, killing 18 and wounding 120. In 1986, the ANO hijacked a Pan Am flight in Karachi resulting in 17 people being killed. They also attacked a synagogue in Istanbul, killing 22 worshippers. In 1988, five Britons were among seven people killed in attack on a hotel in Khartoum.  Also a tourist ship was attacked in Greece by members of the ANO in which nine passengers were killed. In 1989, Abu Nidal ordered the deaths of 165 members of his group. In 1991, the ANO assassinated the Palestinian deputy chief Abu Iyad in Tunis. In 1994, the ANO assassinated a Jordanian diplomat in Lebanon.


Finally even the Arabs had enough of him. He became isolated from the world that supported him. They kicked him out of Iraq in 1983; then he went to Syria and they got rid of him to Jordan, where he was sentenced to death. The Libyans had him for a while and then he was in Egypt. He finally ended up in Baghdad, Iraq.


Abu Nidal at age 65, supposedly died a from a gunshot wound under mysterious circumstances in a flat in Baghdad, according to Iraqi sources. Alil al-Haboush, the head of Iraqi intelligence, said that Abu Nidal shot himself through the mouth when officials arrived to take him to court on charges of entering the country illegally. He said that he died eight hours later. He produced photographs allegedly showing Abu Nidal in an intensive care unit with his head bandaged and bloodied. Of course, that could have been easily faked. Further, why would this terrorist shoot himself if all that was going to happen to him was that he would be deported. A senior PLO official said he had been told by an official in the Iraqi government that Abdul Nidal had committed suicide by shooting himself in his mouth but that official was unable to explain how this could have happened as it wasn’t consistent with a report that he had suffered from three gunshot wounds and not just one.


In any case, one bullet or three bullets, it doesn’t really matter. The world is no longer terrorized by that man who swore that he would be everyone’s nightmare.









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