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Carlos the Jackal

Lawrence Bush
August 13, 2017

Ilyich Ramírez Sánchez, known as Carlos the Jackal, one of the most fearsome terrorists of the pre-Al Qaeda era, was flown from Sudan to France on this date in 1994 to stand trial for the murder of two police officers and their informant. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole. While in prison, he was twice more convicted of multiple murders. Sánchez was born in 1949 as the son of wealthy Venezuelan Marxists. He joined the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in 1970. His early missions included a 1972 hand-grenade attack on the London headquarters of an Israeli bank, a car bombing in Paris that wounded 63 people, and the attempted murder of Joseph Sieff, one of Britain’s most prominent Jewish businessmen, who was shot in the head before Sánchez’s gun jammed. His next mission was coordination of the 1974 occupation of the French embassy in The Hague, Netherlands, by members of the Japanese Red Army, during which he lobbed a grenade into a Paris café and shopping arcade, killing two and wounding dozens. He was most notorious for the 1975 attack on OPEC headquarters in Vienna, in which three people were killed and sixty were taken hostage. After flying to Algiers with millions of dollars in ransom money for the safe release of the hostages, he was given sanctuary by the Algerian government, but the PFLP expelled him the following year. He then went freelance, with support from Libya, East Germany, and others, until his alliances ran out and he spent most of the 1980s in retirement in Syria. A French lawyer, Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, married him in prison in 2001. “He is not a criminal,” she said. “He is a political man, a freedom fighter, a revolutionary. And he has been very badly treated.” In 2003, he released a book from prison, Revolutionary Islam, which called on “all revolutionaries, including those of the left, even atheists,” to accept the leadership of Islamists and to turn Iraq and Afghanistan into “graveyards of American imperialism.”

“No one has executed more people than me in the Palestinian resistance . . . I am the only survivor. In all the fighting, there were collateral victims. It’s unfortunate.” --Carlos the Jackal

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.