How a murderous jackal eluded the hounds
James O Goldsborough. The San Diego Union - Tribune. San Diego, Calif.: Aug 22, 1994. pg. B.5
Smiling and joking, Carlos, aka, the Jackal, told a judge last week he was betrayed in the Sudan by the Sudanese, drugged and illegally smuggled to Paris. His lawyer demanded he be set free.
Americans, who know something about smuggling suspected criminals across borders, will smile at that. Too many people, including the CIA, have been looking for Carlos too long to fret over diplomatic etiquette.
I spent some time looking for him myself, or at least looking for French policemen who were looking for him. The French stayed on his trail for two decades to atone for two blunders in June, '75, which cost many lives.
One blunder led to the murder of two policemen; the second played a key role in the hijacking of Air France Flight 139 to Entebbe, Uganda, in July, '76.
Israel's commando rescue of the passengers of the plane, a Tel Aviv-Paris flight, has become the stuff of lore.
The Carlos story goes like this:
A Venezuelan-born revolutionary whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, Carlos appeared in Europe in the early 1970s and began working for Wadi Haddad, chief European operative of the Damascus- based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), led by George Habash.
Haddad had helped train the Black September Palestinian unit led by Hassan Salameh that, with help from German terrorists, carried out the '72 Munich Olympics massacre of 11 Israeli Olympic athletes. There is no evidence that Carlos was personally involved in that.
Working for the PFLP, Carlos linked up with groups such as the German Baader-Meinhofs and Revolutionary Cells, Dutch Red Help and French and Italian Red Brigades. They were anti-capitalist and anti- Israel and they spread havoc in Europe in the 1970s. The French indictment against Carlos claims he killed 83 people.
Black September's Paris operations were led by Mohammed Boudia, who, like Salameh, worked for Wadi Haddad. Carlos took over from Boudia in '73, after Israel's Mossad blew him up in Paris in retaliation for the Olympics massacre.
By '74, France's DST, or counter-intelligence, had begun to put the pieces together but not quite fast enough.
Wilfred Bose was the leader of Germany's Revolutionary Cells and had been Salameh's local operative for the Munich massacre. Bose was arrested in Paris in June, '75, trying to break into an apartment rented by Michel Moukarbal.
The DST didn't know it, but Moukarbal worked for Carlos. He had been detained two days earlier returning from Beirut.
They let Bose go, even though papers were found in Moukarbal's apartment linking him, along with Carlos, to a January, '75, bazooka attack on an El Al airliner at Orly airport (the shells missed and hit a Yugoslav plane). It is not clear why they let him go.
Bose returned to Germany and, along with Black September, began to plan the Entebbe operation. Six Baader-Meinhof members in German prisons were among the prisoners Bose and the Palestinians demanded in exchange for Flight 139. The Israelis killed Bose at Entebbe.
Mistake number two was as bad as letting Bose go.
Suspecting they missed something, the police, accompanied by Moukarbal himself, returned to the apartment two days later -- and found Carlos. Trouble is, they didn't know who he was.
My own story on the incident, taken from the International Herald Tribune of July 8, 1976, points out that the inspectors went to the apartment unarmed because they thought Moukarbal "was another small fry."
They also thought Carlos was a small fry, and paid for their mistake. Carlos opened fire, killing Moukarbal and two officers before escaping.
The '76 story goes on:
"The escape of Carlos has had its effect on police tactics here, officials say. They do not intend to capture terrorists alive if they can help it. A high French official commented privately, `Carlos would certainly be a hard man to capture alive.' The difficulty with taking terrorists alive, he said, was that it put the lives of innocent persons in danger if another terrorist act is committed to free them."
That is one possible explantion of why Bose was set free, but it does not explain why, if the DST knew who Bose was, they would have gone to Moukarbal's apartment unarmed.
To smuggle Carlos to Paris from Khartoum shows that the French think they can bring off a show trial today without fear of terrorist retaliation. They're probably right. European terrorism was a product of the Cold War, Vietnam and the Middle East wars, and Europe is quieter today.
But terrorism is far from dead. Muslim fundamentalists hold the weird view that terrorism and God are somehow connected, and from Tehran to Algiers to New York to Buenos Aires they have risen to take the place of the loonies of the '70s.
The attack on the Jewish Cultural Center in Buenos Aires last month was the worst atrocity in recent years, though the fundamentalist attack on New York's World Trade Center last year and planned attacks on the U.N. building and federal buildings could have been catastrophic.
Fundamentalism is strong in the Sudan, which is on the U.S. State Department's list of terrorist nations. Why the Sudanese, strongly under the influence of Iran, would cooperate with the French in arresting Carlos, a presumed friend of Muslim extremism, has yet to be explained.
It could be that some in the Muslim world are outraged at associating Islam with the mindless assassins of Algiers, Buenos Aires and New York. It is a working hypothesis, and before Carlos' trial is over, it may be more than that.