Just before 5:00 am, Israeli coach Moshe Weinberg heard a knock on his door. Opening it, he immediately realized that something was terribly wrong. He shouted a warning, and he and weightlifter Joseph Romano attempted to block the door in order to allow their teammembers to escape. Romano and Weinberg's actions allowed Gad Tsobari to flee.
Weinberg knocked one of the intruders unconscious and stabbed another with a fruit knife before he was killed. Romano wounded one before being killed.
Israeli wrestling referee Yossef Gutfreund heard a faint scratching noise at the door, and then saw it opening. Seeing armed masked men, he called in Hebrew for his teammates to flee. He then threw himself against the door to try and block the attackers.
His bravery allowed coach Tuvia Sokolovsky and race-walker Dr. Shaul Ladany to escape.
Four others, plus two team doctors and Shmuel Lalkin, the head of the Israeli delegation, were able to hide. The terrorists rounded up nine Israelis, including Gutfreund, holding them hostage.
At 9:30 am, came the announcement from the terrorists that they were Palestinians, who were demanding the release of more than 230 Arab prisoners in Israeli jails. They also demanded that Germany release two German terrorists in a Frankfurt prison. Further, they wanted safe passage out of Germany.
Hours of negotiations led to a deal being made with German authorities. The terrorists' passage would be provided via a bus and two-helicopter trip to NATO's Firstenfeldbruck air base, where they would board a plane for Cairo. German sharpshooters were waiting, with orders to kill all of the terrorists, without harming the hostages.
The plan failed. There was a firefight, ending when the terrorists set off a grenade in one helicopter. All aboard that aircraft were killed. In the remaining helicopter, the remaining bound, blindfolded Israeli hostages were shot dead. Germany killed five of the terrorists. Three were captured and imprisoned. A German policeman was also killed.
Killed at the airport were:
Israeli wrestling referee Yossef Gutfreund, 40
American-born weightlifter David Berger, 28
Wrestler Mark Slavin, 18
Weightlifting judge Yacov Springer, 51
Weightlifter Ze'ev Friedman, 28
Track coach Amitzur Shapira, 40
Wrestler Eliezer Halfin, 24
Shooting coach Kehat Shorr, 53
Fencing coach Andre Spitzer, 27
At 3:00 am on September 6th, Jim McKay, covering the events for ABC, announced, "They're all gone." But the Olympics continued, despite the tragic events.
The attack had been ordered by Yasser Arafat. Fatah, calling themselves "Black September" in order to avoid negative press, had carried it out. Black September also avoided press releases, and kept its leaders' identity secret to avoid political implications for the PLO and Fatah.
Abu Daoud, the mastermind of the attack, explained it this way:
"There is no such organization called Black September. Fatah announces its own operations under this name so that Fatah will not appear as the direct executor of the operation."
The capture of three of the attackers was by no means the end of the issue.
Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir ordered that the terrorists be hunted down, and that those behind the attack be killed. On September 12, 1972, she addressed the Knesset, saying that: "We have no choice but to strike at the terrorist organizations wherever we can reach them. That is our obligation to ourselves and to peace. We shall fullfil that obligation undauntedly."
Israel called its operation the "Wrath of God," and it was to be one of the most ambitious covert counterterrorist campaigns ever intiated. Over the next several years, five of the Munich terrorists were killed by Moussad agents; three more were killed in joint operations with the IDF. Four other terrorists, wanted for different crimes, were also eliminated. But Abu Daoud eluded them, and Amin as-Hindi, one of the suspected planners, who headed the PLO's General Intelligence Service. Yet another of the Munich suspects, Mustafa Liftawi (Abu Firas) was nominated by Arafat to be the police chief in Ramallah. Of the eleven on Israel's list, eight were killed in Israeli operations, one died of natural causes, and two were assassinated by unknown persons.
On October 29th of 1972, Palestinians hijacked a Lufthansa jet, demanding that the three Munich murderers be released. Germany complied.
In January 24, 2000, Arafat urged all Arab nations to boycott the Australian Summer Olympic Games, because one of the planned events was a moment of silence in memory of the eleven Israeli athletes murdered by Arafat's PLO in Munich.
And as late as December, 2005, Daoud, speaking of Steven Spielberg's film on the events, reiterated that he had no regrets about his involvement in the Munich attack. He was living in Syria at the time.
Munich 1972: Massacre at Munich (CBC Archives)
Munich Massacre (Infoplease)
Munich Massacre (Wikipedia)
Palestinian Facts - Munich Massacre
When the Terror Began
Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
The Munich Massacre
Arab boycott of Olympics
Munich Olympics Massacre Said to Be PLO Operation
Countering Terrorism: The Israeli Response to the 1972 Munich Olympic Massacre
Munich September 5, 1972
Operation Spring of Youth
On Munich, Abu Daoud and Jewish Justice
Mastermind of Munich Massacre to Receive the Palestine Prize
"Munich" - official movie site
Also on this day, in 1986, Pan Am Flight 73 was hijacked by four Abu Nidal organization terrorists. The Boeing 747 with 379 aboard was preparing to depart Karachi International Airport in Pakistan for JFK International Airport in New York City, New York. At least 20 died during the hijacking, including American, Pakistani, Indian, and Mexican citizens. More than 120 were wounded.
Flight attendants alerted the cockpit, as the hijackers came aboard, which allowed the pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer to escape through a cockpit hatch. Their actions effectively grounded the aircraft.
For 16 hours, the Jordanian leader of the hijackers, Zayd Hassan Safarini, demanded the return of the flight crew, in order to fly to Cyprus, intenting to secure the release of Palestinians being held there. Safarini threatened to kill all passengers if his demands were not met.
Flight attendants were ordered to collect passengers' passports, but were able to hide some of the US passports, and intentionally did not collect others. Safarini moved through the cabin, inquiring as to the nationality of passengers. Rajesh Kumar, 29, had recently become an American citizen. Safarini ordered him to go to the front doorway of the plane, and had him kneel with his hands behind his head.
At about 10:00 am, Safarini, angry about the delay in the arrival of a new flight crew, said that he would shoot Kumar if his demands were not met in 15 minutes. A short time later, he shot Kumar in the head, and dumped his body onto the tarmac. Though Pakistani personnel reported that he was still breathing when they placed him in an ambulance, he was pronounced dead upon arrival at a Karachi hospital.
By nightfall, a mechanical failure had the planes lights failing. Safarini had the passengers herded into the center of the aircraft, with gunmen on either side. They then recited a martyr's prayer, and opened fire as the lights went out, also throwing grenades.
At least 20 of the hostages were killed, and many were injured. Survivors escaped through doors forced open when the shooting started. Many jumped to the tarmac from the wing of the plane.
Among those killed were:
Rajesh Kumar, 29, USA
Surendra Manubhai Patel, 50, USA
Jose Alvarez Lamar Nunez, 57, Mexico
Ricardo Munoz Rosales, 28, Mexico
Syed Nesar Ahmad, 43, Pakistan
Imran Rizvi, 17, Pakistan
Meherjee Minocher Kharas, 28, Pakistan
Kuverben Patel, 81, India
Kala Singh, 36, India
Seetharamiah Krishnaswamy, 61, India
Trupti Dalal, 28, India
Krishna Kumari Gadde, 28, India
Neerja Bhanot, 23, India
Ganapathi Thanikaimoni, 48, India
Boby Thomachen Mulloor, 7, India
Thomachen Thomas Mulloor, 30, India
Aleyamma Scaria Nagatholy, 39, India
Ramakant Naik, 55, India
Rupal Desai, 26, India
Kodiyattu K. Kurian, 25, India
The FBI captured hijackers Zayd Hassan Abd Al-Latif Masud Al Safarini on September 28, 2001, in Bangkock after his release in Pakistan. He had been serving a sentence for the attack, and was on his way back home to Jordan. In 2004 he was sentenced to a 160 year prison term in the US. At the plea proceeding, he admitted taking part in the hijacking as a member of the Abu Nidal Organization (ANO).
PanAm Flight 73 - Wikipedia
U.S. Department of Justice Attorney's Office For the District of Columbia
U.S. Department of Justice May 13, 2004, press release
Crowell & Moring (civil suit against Libya, Qadhafi and the hijackers)
Office for Victims of Crime (Department of Justice)
Aviation incidents in India
Terrorist incidents in the 1980s
Terrorism in Pakistan