Carlos the Jackal, one of the world’s most notorious and elusive terrorists, was arrested in Sudan and extradited on Monday to France, where he faces two murder convictions and more than a dozen other charges stemming from a 20-year spree.
“Carlos is in the hands of French justice, to be tried for his crimes,” French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua declared Monday, hours after the 44-year-old prisoner arrived at a military airport near Paris.
Pasqua said Carlos is responsible for 83 deaths worldwide, including at least 15 in France.
The capture of Carlos, a Venezuelan whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, raised fears of terrorist reprisals in France.
Intelligence agents blame him for some of the most audacious terrorist acts of the 1970s, including the 1972 massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, the 1975 kidnaping of 11 ministers attending an OPEC meeting in Vienna and the 1976 hijacking of an Air France jet to Uganda.
While there was skepticism Monday about Carlos and the significance of his arrest, some analysts saw the decision by Sudan to give him up as a positive sign, reflecting the new peace process in the Middle East, and, perhaps more important, a desire by the Sudanese to end their economic isolation and prove to potential aid donors that they no longer harbor terrorists.
“This is a very important moment,” Pasqua told a news conference. “It is not in the tradition of Islamic believers to give up one of their members, even if he is a terrorist. But here is a pure Islamic country that, in striking fashion, is breaking off with terrorism.”
Sudan said its agents seized Carlos in a rented house Sunday and handed him to Interpol, the international police agency, for extradition. He was taken into custody by French agents upon arrival near Paris.
French intelligence officials learned at the beginning of the year that Carlos might be in Sudan, traveling on a fake diplomatic passport.
But it wasn’t until Sunday that Sudan arrested him for “suspicious activities” and planning attacks against “foreign installations” in the country. Sudan did not specify those targets.
“Several times we got our hopes up that he was going to be extradited, but several times we were disappointed,” Pasqua said. "(Sunday) morning, though, Sudan informed us that they had evidence this person was Carlos and that they were ready to extradite him.”
Pasqua said Carlos was questioned by Jean-Claude Bruyere, the French prosecutor specializing in terrorist crimes, and a French radio station said he was later taken to a prison in eastern Paris.
Legal experts in France said that even though Carlos was convicted in 1992 of killing two French counterintelligence agents, he would probably have to be retried in that case.
There was little doubt, though, that France will attempt to put Carlos on trial. “Up until now, France has given the impression that we have no memory,” Pasqua said Monday. “But we have shown today that one cannot kill a Frenchman with impunity.”
The arrest ended a long hunt for Carlos that had turned him into an almost mythical figure--reportedly a cunning master of disguise who committed daring and bloody acts of terrorism while always eluding capture.
Some of that notoriety stemmed from Carlos’ image as a flamboyant gunman with a taste for the good life and his catchy nickname, which he earned from British tabloids after the novel, “Day of the Jackal,” reportedly was found in one of his hide-outs. The Frederick Forsyth book is about an assassin, “the Jackal,” sent to kill French President Charles de Gaulle.
Carlos had not been heard from in several years, and some intelligence agents thought he might be dead. Still, his name continued to surface whenever terrorist attacks were investigated. And, in the 1990s, he was reported to be living in Damascus as a guest of the Syrian government.
David Yallop, author of a 1993 book on Carlos called “To the Ends of the Earth,” said he interviewed Carlos in Syria, where he was posing as a Mexican businessman and living with his wife, German extremist Magdalena Kopp, and their two children.
Yallop is among those who have questioned the Carlos myth, suggesting that, in reality, the terrorist was “a would-be revolutionary of gross incompetence” who often killed in panic. The author said the myth of Carlos was created by American, French and British intelligence agents who wrongly identified him as a KGB agent.
Alain Maraud, a former head of the French intelligence service, said the arrest “is either going to show that Carlos was a myth or a criminal. We never really knew the answer. But now this is a new page in the fight against terrorism.”
Alexandre de Marenches, another former French secret service chief who led an unsuccessful mission to find Carlos in 1986, told French television: “It was a long chase and it’s very good news.”
The son of a wealthy Communist lawyer in Venezuela, Carlos joined the Communist students’ movement in the streets of Caracas and later received guerrilla training in Cuba. The Venezuelan Communist Party sponsored him at Lumumba University in Moscow, where many Third World nationals were selected by the KGB for training as Soviet agents.
While there, Carlos came in contact with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which he joined in 1970. Since then, he has been linked with various terrorist groups, including Germany’s Baader-Meinhof gang, the Turkish Popular Liberation Front, the Japanese Red Army, the Basque separatist movement in Spain and various other Palestinian organizations.
Accusations against Carlos range from organizing the Japanese Red Army occupation of the French Embassy in The Hague in December, 1974, a rocket attack on an Israeli plane at Paris’ Orly airport and plots to assassinate business and political leaders.
Israeli officials have said they do not believe he had a role in the 1972 Munich Olympics hostage drama, though other intelligence officials still consider Carlos a suspect in that case.
But there’s no question that, on Dec. 21, 1975, Carlos and his squad of Palestinian and West German extremists shot their way into the offices of the Organization of Petroleum-Exporting Countries in the Austrian capital during a ministerial meeting.
Three people, including an Austrian police officer, were killed and, after a fierce gun battle, the terrorists secured control of the office, kidnaped the ministers and demanded a $1-billion ransom. Calling themselves “The Arm of the Arab Revolution,” they demanded a bus to take them with their hostages to a plane at the airport, a demand the Austrians agreed to.
They flew first to Algiers where most of the hostages were released, then to the Libyan capital, Tripoli, and eventually to Algiers, where they gave themselves up. They were allowed to go free within a few days.
The hostage drama ended a six-month saga that had begun in Paris, where Carlos killed two French counterintelligence agents and an accomplice who had turned informer. The agents had been investigating attacks on the Israeli planes in Paris. (Carlos was sentenced in absentia in 1992 to life in prison for killing the French agents.)
In March, 1982, Carlos threatened to strike against the French government unless it freed two of his agents, Bruno Breguet, a Swiss, and Kopp, the German who later became Carlos’ wife. The threat was contained in a letter bearing his fingerprints, verified by French police.
Later that month, a bomb exploded aboard the Paris-Toulouse express, killing six people and wounding 15. The French blamed Carlos.
A month later, a bomb exploded in a rush-hour crowd just off the Champs Elysees, killing a pregnant woman and wounding 63 other people. And, on New Year’s Eve, 1983, bombs exploded in Marseilles’ main railroad terminal and on the Paris-Marseilles express, killing five people and wounding 50.
Kopp and Breguet were released in May, 1985.
U.S. officials say Carlos was in Sudan with a woman using a Jordanian passport whom he said was his wife. But she appeared not to be Kopp. The woman’s identity was unclear.
Times staff writer Kim Murphy in Cairo contributed to this report.
Trail of the Jackal
Some of the major terrorist attacks of 1970s and 1980s have been attributed to Carlos, known as “The Jackal":
Intelligence reports link him to the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the Summer Olympics in Munich.
Wounding of British millionaire Edward Sieff, a Jew whose family owns Marks & Spencers stores in London.
Takeover of the French Embassy in The Hague.
Killing of two French intelligence agents who were investigating attacks on planes of Israel’s El Al airlines at Paris’ Orly Airport.
Held responsible for an attack on OPEC headquarters in Vienna in which three people were killed and 11 taken hostage. The cartel’s oil ministers were taken to North Africa in a hijacked plane in a $1 billion ransom drama.
Hijacking of an Air France jetliner to Entebbe, Uganda.
Bombing of the Paris-Toulouse express that kills six people and wounds 15 in France.
Bombing just off the Champs Elysees in Paris kills a pregnant woman and wounds 63 other people.
Bombings in Marseilles’ main railroad terminal and on the Paris-Marseilles express kill five people and wound 50.
Bombing of French cultural center in West Berlin kills one and wounds 23.
Profile: Ilich Ramirez Sanchez
Alias: Carlos Martinez, among other pseudonyms. Dubbed “the Jackal” by news media after the ice-blooded assassin in Frederick Forsyth’s “Day of the Jackal.”
Born: Oct. 12, 1949, in Venezuela, son of a wealthy lawyer who supported radical left-wing causes.
Education: Lumumba University of Moscow after a series of tutors in Latin America, the Caribbean and United states. Received guerilla training in Cuba and Jordan.
Affiliations: Communist Students Movement in Caracas, Venezuela, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine; he has been linked to Germany’s Baader-Meinhof gang, Turkish Popular Liberation Front, Japanese Red Army and Basque separatist movement in Spain.
Marital status: Married to German terrorist Magdalena Kopp; two children.
Most recent residence: Damascus, Syria, where he reportedly sought refuge in 1985 following Kopp’s release from prison. Has lived quietly since, allegedly posing as a Mexican businessman.
Prior convictions: Sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment by French court for role in 1975 killing of two French security agents.
Biography: “To the Ends of the Earth,” by David Yallop (1993).
Sources: Reuters, Associated Press