Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The 40th Anniversary of the Munich Olympics Massacre

A Dark Day in September

September 5, 2012, marks the 40th anniversary of the darkest chapter in Olympic history—the day when Palestinian members of the Black September Organization attacked the Israeli delegation, killing two athletes and taking another nine hostage. The tense standoff with German police that followed culminated in a firefight that left all the hostages and five of the terrorists dead. In this excerpt from Dr. Peter Chalk's Encyclopedia of Terrorism, the climax of this tragic event is described in detail.

Shortly after 10:00 p.m. the bound-together and blindfolded hostages and their captors emerged from the apartment building and were herded onto a bus. The terrorists conducted this movement in such fashion that the police were unable to make any attempt to shoot them. Munich police chief Manfred Schreiber and two officials joined in the bus ride to the helicopters, which then ferried everyone to the airport. 
Certain that the incident would end in the deaths of the hostages, German officials were determined to prevent the departure. At 3:00 a.m. on September 6, German sharpshooters opened fire on 2 terrorists who had just inspected the plane. In the bloody shootout that followed, a terrorist threw a grenade into one of the helicopters, killing all within. Other terrorists killed the remaining blindfolded hostages in another helicopter. In all, the incident claimed the lives of 11 Israelis, 5 terrorists, and 1 German policeman. Three of the terrorists were captured alive and imprisoned. 
Less than two months later in response to the hijacking of a Lufthansa jet, the German government released the three imprisoned terrorists and allowed them to fly to Libya. Israeli prime minister Golda Meir and her cabinet, meanwhile, approved a top-secret operation by the Mossad (Israeli intelligence service) to track down and kill those responsible for the Munich atrocity. The Mossad’s success in this operation and its moral implications are the subject of the 2005 film Munich.

Peter Chalk, PhD, is senior analyst with the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, CA, and associate editor of Studies in Conflict and Terrorism. He was formerly professor of international relations at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, and has consulted widely on issues relevant to national and international security. He is the author of numerous books and articles, including The South American Drug Trade: Scope, Dimension, Impact and Response; The Maritime Dimension of International Security: Terrorism, Piracy and Challenges for the United States; and Non-Military Security and Global Disorder: The Impact of Extremism, Violence and Chaos on National and International Security. Chalk holds a doctorate from the University of British Columbia, Canada.

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