Abu Nidal

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Abu Nidal ( Arabic أبو نضال, DMG Abū Niḍāl ), actual name Sabri Chalil al-Banna (صبري خليل البنا, DMG Ṣabrī Ḫalīl al-Bannā ; * May 1937 in Jaffa ; † August 16, 2002 in Baghdad ), was a Palestinian terrorist and the founder of the Abu Nidal Organization , a split from the PLO in 1974. The terrorist organization Abu Nidals carried out over 100 attacks in more than 20 countries.

Early years

Abu Nidal was born in May 1937 at the port of Jaffa on the coast of Palestine, which was then under British rule . His father Chalil was a wealthy businessman who made his living from orange plantations and raised his eleven children in a five-story house on the beach (now used as an Israeli military court). Chalil fell in love with one of his maids, a 16-year-old Alawite, and, contrary to his family's wishes , took her to be his wife. She had his twelfth child, Sabri Chalil al-Banna. According to various sources, she was his second or eighth wife.

Despised by his older half-siblings, his childhood was very unhappy. The father died in 1945 when Abu Nidal was seven, after which his family threw his unloved mother out of the house. Although he was allowed to live with his siblings, his upbringing was neglected. He developed into a misogynist, later forced his own wife into isolation and also forbade the wives of his followers from any friendship with one another.

When the Palestinian War broke out between Arabs and Jews, his family lost the orange plantations because Jaffa was a war zone. They fled to the Al-Burj refugee camp in Gaza , where they lived in tents for a year. Then they went to Nablus and then to Jordan .

Abu Nidal spent his teenage years in Nablus in various jobs. At 18 he joined the Ba'ath Party , which was banned in 1957. As a mastermind of a failed assassination attempt on King Hussein , he fled to Saudi Arabia , where he settled down as an electrician and painter and also worked temporarily in the laboratory for Aramco .

Political life

In Riyadh he gathered a small group of young Palestinians who called themselves the “Palestine Secret Organization” and met his wife Hiyam Al-Bitar, with whom he had their son Nidal and two daughters, Badia and Bissam. When Israel won the Six Day War in 1967 , he was imprisoned and tortured by the Saudis in the face of the new diplomatic situation, and eventually expelled from the country. He moved to Amman , Jordan, and founded the Impex trading company, and joined Fatah , Yasser Arafat's party within the PLO . Impex soon became the platform for Fatah's activities and Abu Nidal became a wealthy man, including exporting poultry to Poland . At the same time, the company served as a cover for its political violence and multimillion-dollar arms deals, mercenary activities and protection thugs.

Impex served as a meeting place for Fatah members and as their financial strength. Abu Nidal was known as a clean businessman at the time. During Black September in Jordan between fedayeen and King Hussein's troops, he stayed at home and never left his office. Recognizing his talent for organization, Abu Ijad appointed him Fatah representative in Khartoum , Sudan , in 1968 , then in Baghdad in 1970, just two months before King Hussein's second assassination attempt.

Nidal was an unofficial employee of the GDR State Security .

Split from the PLO

Shortly before the PLO expulsion from Jordan and during the three following years, some radical Palestinian and other Arab parties, such as George Habasch's PFLP , DFLP , Arab Liberation Front , Sa'iqa, and the Palestinian Liberation Front , began to split off from the PLO and started their own Terrorist attacks against Israeli military and civilian targets.

Shortly after the expulsion from Jordan, Abu Nidal began broadcasting criticism of the PLO through Voice of Palestine, the PLO's own radio station in Iraq, accusing it of cowardice for agreeing to a ceasefire with King Hussein. During the third Fatah Congress in Damascus in 1971, Abu Nidal appeared as the leader of a left-wing alliance against Arafat. Together with Abu Daud (one of Fatah's most ruthless commanders who was later responsible for planning the Munich hostage-taking , in which 11 Israeli athletes were taken hostage and killed in the Olympic Village in Munich) and the Palestinian intellectual Naji Allush , he explained to Arafat the enemy of the Palestinian people and demanded more democracy within Fatah and revenge against King Hussein. It was Abu Nidal's last congress.

Years in Libya and further attacks

In 1985 Abu Nidal moved to Tripoli , where he made friends with Gaddafi , who soon became his partner and also made use of it. On April 15, 1986, US forces attacked in Operation El Dorado Canyon from British bases in Tripoli and Benghazi . Dozens were killed. This action was in retaliation for a bomb attack ten days earlier on a Berlin nightclub that was frequently visited by US soldiers. After Abu Nidal's death, Atef Abu Bakr , a former Fatah RC member, told journalists that Gaddafi had asked Abu Nidal to work with his intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senussi , to plan a series of acts of revenge against British and US targets.

Abu Nidal arranged the kidnapping of two British and one American who were later found murdered. He then suggested Senussi hijack or blow up an airplane. On September 5, 1986, a Fatah RC team hijacked Pan Am Flight 73 in Karachi , killing 22 passengers and wounding several. In August 1987 he had a bomb smuggled onto a flight from Belgrade operated by an unknown airline, but it did not explode. Annoyed by its failure, Senussi ordered Abu Nidal to build a bomb that was brought to New York by a Libyan agent aboard PanAm Flight 103 . On December 21, 1988, the plane exploded over Lockerbie , Scotland . 259 people on board and 11 on the ground were killed.

In 2000 a Scottish court convicted Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi , the former security chief of Libyan Arab Airlines , for his role in the attack. He had labeled the suitcase in Malta so that it would get on board the machine. Abu Nidal's involvement was never confirmed.


Abu Nidal settled in Iraq in 1999 after breaking with Gaddafi, who tried to re-establish contact with the United States and the United Kingdom and distance himself from terrorism . The Iraqi government said he entered with a forged passport, but from 2001 he officially lived there, despite having been sentenced to death in absentia in Jordan for his role in the 1994 murder of a Jordanian diplomat in Beirut.

On August 19, 2002, the Palestinian Official Gazette, Al-Ayyam , reported that Abu Nidal had suffered multiple gunshot wounds. On August 21, Iraqi intelligence held a press conference presenting photos of Abu Nidal's bloody body and an autopsy report intended to prove that he had died from a single gunshot wound, a shot in the mouth. According to the intelligence service, agents broke into his home to arrest him for a planned assassination attempt on Saddam Hussein . With the request to be allowed to get dressed, he retired to his bedroom and shot himself in the mouth. After eight hours of intensive treatment, he died. As has been known for a long time, he suffered from leukemia .

According to other sources (see above), the Iraqi secret service has been observing him for a long time. Documents about a US attack on Iraq are said to have been found. Agents broke into his home on August 14, where a fight with his supporters had broken out. He fled to his bedroom, where he died. It is unclear whether he killed himself. His body had multiple gunshot wounds, the source said.

Chronology of the assassinations

(overlaps with ANO)

  • September 1973: Occupation of the Saudi embassy in Paris .
  • December 1973: Attack on a passenger plane operated by the US airline PanAm and the terminal at Fiumicino International Airport in Rome.
  • 1976:
    • September: Occupation of the Semiramis Hotel in Damascus . Two of the terrorists are later publicly hanged.
    • October: Attacks on Syrian embassies in Islamabad (Pakistan) and Rome (Italy). Assassination attempt on Syrian Foreign Minister Khadam during his stay abroad in Abu Dhabi (UAE - United Arab Emirates ). The UAE Foreign Minister is killed in the attack.
    • November: Attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Amman, Jordan.
    • December: Attempted assassination of the Syrian Foreign Minister Khadam in Damascus and failed attack on the Syrian embassy in İstanbul.
  • 1978:
    • January: Attack on the PLO representative in London.
    • February: The President of the Conference of the Organization for Solidarity of the Peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America, the Egyptian journalist Youssef al-Seba'i is murdered.
    • June: Assassination attempt on the PLO representative in Kuwait City.
    • August: Assassination attempt on the PLO representative Izz al-Din al-Kalak in Paris and attack on the PLO office in Islamabad (Pakistan).
  • July 1980: Attack on a Jewish school in Antwerp.
  • 1981:
    • May: Assassination attempt on Heinz Nittel , head of the Austrian-Israeli friendship association in Vienna.
    • June: Assassination attempt on PLO representative Naim Khader in Brussels.
    • August: Attack on the synagogue in Vienna kills 2 people and injures 17 other people.
  • 1982:
    • June: Attempted assassination attempt on Shlomo Argov the Israeli ambassador in London.
    • August: Machine gun attack on the Jewish restaurant "Jo Goldenberg" in Paris. Attempted attacks on the consul of the United Arab Emirates in Bombay, India and on a Kuwaiti diplomat in Karachi, Pakistan.
    • September: Assassination attempt on a Kuwaiti diplomat in Madrid and attack on a synagogue in Brussels.
    • October: Terrorists armed with machine guns and hand grenades attack the synagogue in Rome and kill a child, ten people are injured.
  • 1983:
    • April: Assassination attempt on the PLO representative Issam Sartawi (1935–1983) who participated as an observer at the conference of the Socialist International in Lisbon. Sartawi was killed in the lobby of the Hotel Montchoro in Albufeira , Portugal.
    • October: Assassination of the Jordanian ambassador in New Delhi (India) and the ambassador in Rome.
    • December: Assassination attempt on the Jordanian ambassador in Madrid.
  • 1984:
    • February: Attack on the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates in Paris.
    • March: Attack on a British diplomat in Athens. Attempted bomb attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Amman during Elizabeth II's visit to Jordan.
    • October: Attempted assassination attempt on a diplomat from the United Arab Emirates in Rome.
    • November: Bomb attack on a British Airways office in Beirut.
    • December: Assassination attempt on a Jordanian diplomat in Bucharest. Bomb attack and assassinations of PLO representatives Hani al-Hassan and Fahed Kawasmeh in Amman.
  • 1985:
    • March: Bombings on the offices of the Jordanian airline ALIA in Rome (Italy), Athens (Greece) and Nicosia (Cyprus).
    • April: Rocket attack on a passenger plane of the Jordanian airline ALIA at take-off in Athens. The missile does not explode, but leaves a hole in the fuselage. A rocket attack is also carried out on the Jordanian embassy in Rome.
    • July: Attempted bomb attack on the US embassy in Cairo. Bomb attack on the offices of British Airways and ALIA in Madrid. One person dies and 29 are injured in the attacks. Hand grenade attack on the Café de Paris in Rome, injuring 38 people.
    • November: An Egypt Air passenger plane is hijacked by Arab terrorists. A special unit of the Egyptian security forces storms the plane at Malta Airport . 66 people die in the process. The ANO is made responsible for the attack.
    • December: Libya supports the terrorist Abu Nidal organization - logistically in the attacks on Vienna-Schwechat and Rome-Fiumicino airports . In the almost simultaneous attacks on the counters of the Israeli airline El Al , 20 people are killed, including 5 Americans and 120 injured, some seriously. The four terrorists also die.
  • 1986:
    • April: Explosives attack on a US passenger plane of the type Boeing 727 of the airline TWA with 111 passengers on flight 840 from Rome via Athens to Cairo. A bomb explodes on board between Corfu and Corinth and tears a hole in the machine. 4 passengers are thrown out. The pilot can make an emergency landing in Athens.
    • September: Attack on the visitors of the Turkish synagogue Neve-Shalom in Istanbul with machine guns and hand grenades, killing 22 people. The attack was an act of revenge for Israeli action in a militia camp in southern Lebanon.
  • November 1987: hijacking of a yacht with 8 Belgian citizens on board to Libya.
  • May 1988: Simultaneous attacks on the Acropole Hotel and the Hotel Sudan Club in Khartoum (Sudan), killing 8 people and injuring 21.
  • January 1991: Assassination attempt on the deputy PLO chief Abu Iyad and the Fatah commander Abu el-Hol in Tunis.
  • December 1998: Relocation of the ANO headquarters to the Iraqi capital Baghdad.
  • August 2002: Abu Nidal is found dead in an apartment in Baghdad.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. SWR2 DIE BUCHKRITIK Review by Thomas Moser: Regine Igel: Terrorismus-Lügen. How the Stasi acted underground ( Memento from November 18, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  2. cf. Marie Colvin and Sonya Murad, "Executed," The Sunday Times , August 25, 2002
  3. ^ Gabriele Paradisi: Una strage dimenticata. Fiumicino, December 17th, 1973
  4. ^ Mannes, Aaron (2003). Profiles in Terror: The Guide to Middle East Terrorist Organizations . Rowman & Littlefield. P. 105.