Carlos the Jackal

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Ilich Ramírez Sánchez
Born (1949-10-12) 12 October 1949 (age 69)
Michelena, Tachira, Venezuela
Other namesCarlos
Carlos the Jackal
Criminal statusImprisoned since 1994
Spouse(s) Magdalena Kopp
Lana Jarrar
Isabelle Coutant-Peyre
Conviction(s) 16 murders
Criminal penalty Life imprisonment

Ilich Ramírez Sánchez (Spanish:  [ilitʃ raˈmiɾes santʃes] ; born 12 October 1949), also known as Carlos the Jackal (Spanish : Carlos el Chacal), is a native Venezuelan convicted of terrorist crimes, and currently serving a life sentence in France for the 1975 murder of an informant for the French government and two French counter-intelligence agents. [1] [2] [3] While in prison he was further convicted of attacks in France that killed 11 and injured 150 people and sentenced to an additional life term in 2011, [4] [5] and then to a third life term in 2017. [6]

Spanish language Romance language

Spanish or Castilian, is a Romance language that originated in the Iberian Peninsula and today has hundreds of millions of native speakers in Spain and the Americas. It is a global language and the world's second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese.

France Republic with majority of territory in Europe and numerous oversea territories around the world

France, officially the French Republic, is a sovereign state whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.0 million. France is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.


A committed Marxist–Leninist, Ramírez Sánchez was one of the most notorious political terrorists of his era. [7] [8] [9] When he joined the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in 1970, recruiting officer Bassam Abu Sharif gave him the code name "Carlos" because of his South American roots. [10] After several bungled bombings, Ramírez Sánchez led the 1975 raid on the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) headquarters in Vienna, which killed three people. This was followed by a string of attacks against Western targets. For many years he was among the most-wanted international fugitives. Carlos was dubbed "The Jackal" by The Guardian after one of its correspondents reportedly spotted Frederick Forsyth's 1971 novel The Day of the Jackal near some of the fugitive's belongings. [11]

Marxism–Leninism political ideology

In political science, Marxism–Leninism was the official state ideology of the Soviet Union (USSR), of the parties of the Communist International, after Bolshevisation; and is the ideology of Stalinist political parties. The purpose of Marxism–Leninism is the revolutionary transformation of a capitalist state into a socialist state, by way of two-stage revolution, which is led by a vanguard party of professional revolutionaries, drawn from the proletariat. To realise the two-stage transformation of the state, the vanguard party establishes the dictatorship of the proletariat, which determines policy through democratic centralism.

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine political party

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) is a secular Palestinian Marxist–Leninist and revolutionary socialist organization founded in 1967 by George Habash. It has consistently been the second-largest of the groups forming the Palestine Liberation Organization, the largest being Fatah. As of 2015 the PFLP boycotts participation in the PLO Executive Committee and the Palestinian National Council.

Bassam Abu Sharif Palestinian militant

Bassam Abu Sharif is a former senior adviser to Yasser Arafat and leading cadre of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). He was previously a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

For his part, Ramírez Sánchez denied the 1975 French killings, saying they were orchestrated by Mossad, the Israeli secret service, and condemned Israel as a terrorist state. During his trial in France in 1997, he said, "When one wages war for 30 years, there is a lot of blood spilledmine and others. But we never killed anyone for money, but for a causethe liberation of Palestine." [12] In 2017 he claimed responsibility for a total of 80 deaths, and boasted that "no one in the Palestinian resistance has executed more people than I have." [13]

Mossad National intelligence agency of Israel

Mossad, short for HaMossad leModiʿin uleTafkidim Meyuḥadim, is the national intelligence agency of Israel. It is one of the main entities in the Israeli Intelligence Community, along with Aman and Shin Bet.

Israel country in the Middle East

Israel, also known as the State of Israel, is a country in Western Asia, located on the southeastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea and the northern shore of the Red Sea. It has land borders with Lebanon to the north, Syria to the northeast, Jordan on the east, the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the east and west, respectively, and Egypt to the southwest. The country contains geographically diverse features within its relatively small area. Israel's economic and technological center is Tel Aviv, while its seat of government and proclaimed capital is Jerusalem, although the state's sovereignty over Jerusalem has only partial recognition.

Palestine (region) geographical region in the Middle East

Palestine is a geographic region in Western Asia usually considered to include Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and in some definitions, parts of western Jordan.


Early life

Ramírez Sánchez, son of Marxist lawyer José Altagracia Ramírez Navas and Elba María Sánchez, was born in Michelena, in the Venezuelan state of Táchira. [14] Despite his mother's pleas to give their firstborn child a Christian first name, José called him Ilyich, after Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, while two younger siblings were named "Lenin" (born 1951) and "Vladimir" (born 1958). [15] Ilyich attended a high school in Liceo Fermin Toro of Caracas and joined the youth movement of the Venezuelan Communist Party in 1959. After attending the Third Tricontinental Conference in January 1966 with his father, Ilyich reportedly spent the summer at Camp Matanzas, a guerrilla warfare school run by the Cuban DGI near Havana. [16] Later that year, his parents divorced.

Michelena Place in Táchira, Venezuela

Michelena is a town in Táchira state, Venezuela. It was founded in 1849 by José Amando Pérez. It has a population of 22.500.

Venezuela Republic in northern South America

Venezuela, officially the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, is a country on the northern coast of South America, consisting of a continental landmass and a large number of small islands and islets in the Caribbean Sea. The capital and largest urban agglomeration is the city of Caracas. It has a territorial extension of 916,445 km2. The continental territory is bordered on the north by the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Colombia, Brazil on the south, Trinidad and Tobago to the north-east and on the east by Guyana. The Venezuelan government maintains a claim against Guyana to Guayana Esequiba, an area of 159,542 km2. For its maritime areas, Venezuela exercises sovereignty over 71,295 km2 of territorial waters, 22,224 km2 in its contiguous zone, 471,507 km2 of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean under the concept of exclusive economic zone, and 99,889 km2 of continental shelf. This marine area borders those of 13 states. The country has extremely high biodiversity and is ranked seventh in the world's list of nations with the most number of species. There are habitats ranging from the Andes Mountains in the west to the Amazon basin rain-forest in the south via extensive llanos plains, the Caribbean coast and the Orinoco River Delta in the east.

Táchira State of Venezuela

Táchira State is one of the 23 states of Venezuela. The state capital is San Cristóbal.

His mother took the children to London, where she studied at Stafford House College in Kensington and the London School of Economics. In 1968, José tried to enroll Ilyich and his brother at the Sorbonne in Paris, but eventually opted for the Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow. According to the BBC, it was "a notorious hotbed for recruiting foreign communists to the Soviet Union" (see active measures). [17] [18] [19] He was expelled from the university in 1970.

Kensington district within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in central London

Kensington is an affluent district in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in the West End of central London.

London School of Economics Public research university in Westminster, central London, England

The London School of Economics is a public research university located in London, England, and a member institution of the federal University of London. Founded in 1895 by Fabian Society members Sidney Webb, Beatrice Webb, Graham Wallas, and George Bernard Shaw for the betterment of society, LSE joined the University of London in 1900 and established its first degree courses under the auspices of the University in 1901. The LSE started awarding its own degrees in 2008, prior to which it awarded degrees of the University of London.

University of Paris former university in Paris, France from 1896 to 1968

The University of Paris, metonymically known as the Sorbonne, was a university in Paris, France, active 1150–1793, and 1806–1970.

From Moscow Ramírez Sánchez travelled to Beirut, Lebanon, where he volunteered for the PFLP in July 1970. [20] He was sent to a training camp for foreign volunteers of the PFLP on the outskirts of Amman, Jordan. On graduating, he studied at a finishing school, code-named H4 and staffed by Iraqi military, near the Syria-Iraq border. [20]

Amman City in Amman Governorate, Jordan

Amman is the capital and most populous city of Jordan, and the country's economic, political and cultural centre. Situated in north-central Jordan, Amman is the administrative centre of the Amman Governorate. The city has a population of 4,007,526 and a land area of 1,680 square kilometres. Today, Amman is considered to be among the most modernized Arab cities. It is a major tourist destination in the region, particularly among Arab and European tourists.

On completing guerrilla training, Carlos (as he was now calling himself) played an active role for the PFLP in the north of Jordan during the Black September conflict of 1970, gaining a reputation as a fighter. After the organisation was pushed out of Jordan, he returned to Beirut. He was sent to be trained by Wadie Haddad. [21] He eventually left the Middle East to attend courses at the Polytechnic of Central London (now known as the University of Westminster), and apparently continued to work for the PFLP.

In 1973, Carlos conducted a failed PFLP assassination attempt on Joseph Sieff, a Jewish businessman and vice president of the British Zionist Federation. On 30 December, Carlos called on Sieff's home on Queen's Grove in St John's Wood and ordered the maid to take him to Sieff. [22] Finding Sieff in the bathroom, in his bath, Carlos fired one bullet at Sieff from his Tokarev 7.62mm pistol, which bounced off Sieff just between his nose and upper lip and knocked him unconscious; the gun then jammed and Carlos fled. [22] [23] [24] The attack was announced as retaliation for Mossad's assassination in Paris of Mohamed Boudia, a PFLP leader.

Carlos admits responsibility for a failed bomb attack on the Bank Hapoalim in London and car bomb attacks on three French newspapers accused of pro-Israeli leanings. He claimed to be the grenade thrower at a Parisian restaurant in an attack that killed two and injured 30 as part of the 1974 French Embassy attack in The Hague. He later participated in two failed rocket propelled grenade attacks on El Al airplanes at Orly Airport near Paris on 13 and 17 January 1975. The second attack resulted in gunfighting with police at the airport and a seventeen-hour hostage situation involving hundreds of riot police and the French Interior Minister Michel Poniatowski. Carlos fled during the gunfight while the three other PFLP terrorists were allowed flight to Baghdad, Iraq. [25] [26]

According to FBI agent Robert Scherrer, one MIR and one ERP member were arrested in Paraguay in June 1975. These two would have possessed Carlos's phone number in Paris. Paraguayan authorities would then have handed over the information to France. [27]

On 26 June 1975, Carlos's PFLP contact, Lebanon-born Michel Moukharbal, was captured and interrogated by the French domestic intelligence agency, the DST.[ citation needed ] When two unarmed agents of the DST interrogated Carlos at a Parisian house party, Moukharbal revealed Carlos's identity. Carlos then shot and killed the two agents and Moukharbal, [28] fled the scene, and managed to escape via Brussels to Beirut.

OPEC raid in Vienna and expulsion from PFLP

From Beirut, Carlos participated in the planning for the attack on the headquarters of OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) in Vienna. On 21 December 1975, he led the six-person team (which included Gabriele Kröcher-Tiedemann) that attacked the meeting of OPEC leaders; they took more than 60 hostages and killed three: an Austrian policeman, an Iraqi OPEC employee and a member of the Libyan delegation. Carlos demanded that the Austrian authorities read a communiqué about the Palestinian cause on Austrian radio and television networks every two hours. To avoid the threatened execution of a hostage every 15 minutes, the Austrian government agreed and the communiqué was broadcast as demanded.

On 22 December, the government provided the PFLP and 42 hostages an airplane and flew them to Algiers, as demanded for the hostages' release. Ex-Royal Navy pilot Neville Atkinson, at that time the personal pilot for Libya's leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, flew Carlos and a number of others, including Hans-Joachim Klein, a supporter of the imprisoned Red Army Faction and a member of the Revolutionary Cells, and Gabriele Kröcher-Tiedemann, from Algiers. [29] Atkinson flew the DC-9 to Tripoli, where more hostages were freed, before he returned to Algiers. The last hostages were freed there and some of the terrorists were granted asylum.

In the years following the OPEC raid, Bassam Abu Sharif, another PFLP agent, and Klein claimed that Carlos had received a large sum of money for the safe release of the Arab hostages and had kept it for his personal use. Claims are that the amount was between US$20 million and US$50 million. The source of the money is also uncertain but, according to Klein, it was from "an Arab president". Carlos later told his lawyers that the money was paid by the Saudis on behalf of the Iranians and was "diverted en route and lost by the Revolution."

Carlos left Algeria for Libya and then Aden, where he attended a meeting of senior PFLP officials to justify his failure to execute two senior OPEC hostages – the finance minister of Iran, Jamshid Amuzgar, and the oil minister of Saudi Arabia, Ahmed Zaki Yamani. His trainer and PFLP-EO leader Wadie Haddad expelled Carlos for not shooting hostages when PFLP demands were not met, thus failing his mission. [30]

After 1975

Manuel Contreras, Gerhard Mertins, Sergio Arredondo and an unidentified Brazilian general traveled to Tehran in 1976 to offer a collaboration to the Shah regime to kill Carlos in exchange for a large sum of money. It's not known what actually happened in the meetings. [27]

In September 1976, Carlos was arrested, detained in Yugoslavia, and flown to Baghdad. He chose to settle in Aden, where he tried to found his own Organization of Armed Struggle, composed of Syrian, Lebanese and German rebels. He also connected with the Stasi, East Germany's secret police. [31] They provided him with an office and safe houses in East Berlin, a support staff of 75, and a service car, and allowed him to carry a pistol while in public. [31]

From here, Carlos is believed to have planned his attacks on several European targets, including the bombing of the Radio Free Europe offices in Munich in February 1981, which was part of an eventually unsuccessful hunt for Ion Mihai Pacepa ordered and financed by the Romanian government. [32] [33]

On 16 February 1982, two of the group—Swiss terrorist Bruno Breguet and Carlos' wife Magdalena Kopp—were arrested in Paris, in a car containing explosives. Following the arrest, a letter was sent to the French embassy in The Hague demanding their immediate release. Meanwhile, Carlos unsuccessfully lobbied the French government for their release.

In retaliation, France was struck by a wave of terrorist attacks, including: the bombing of the Paris-Toulouse TGV 'Le Capitole' train on 29 March 1982 (5 dead, 77 injured); the car-bombing of the newspaper Al-Watan al-Arabi in Paris on April 22, 1982 (1 dead, 63 injured); the bombing of the Gare Saint-Charles in Marseille on December 31, 1983 (2 dead, 33 injured), and the bombing of the Marseille-Paris TGV train (3 dead, 12 injured) on the same day. [34] In August 1983, he also attacked the Maison de France in West Berlin, killing one man and injuring twenty-two. [31] Within days of the bombings, Carlos sent letters to three separate news agencies claiming responsibility for the bombings as revenge for a French air strike against a PFLP training camp in Lebanon the previous month.

Historians' examination of Stasi files, recently accessible after German reunification, demonstrates a link between Carlos and the KGB, via the East German secret police. When Leonid Brezhnev visited West Germany in 1981, Ramírez Sánchez did not undertake any attacks, at the request of the KGB. Western intelligence had expected activity during this period. [31] Carlos also had relations with the leadership of the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) group. Stasi asked Carlos to use his influence on ASALA to tone down the Armenian group's anti-Soviet activity. [35]

With conditional support from the Iraqi regime and after the death of Haddad, Carlos offered the services of his group to the PFLP and other groups. His group's first attack may have been a failed rocket attack on the Superphénix French nuclear power station on 18 January 1982.

These attacks led to international pressure on East European states that harboured Carlos. For over two years, he lived in Hungary, in Budapest's second district known as the quarter of nobles. His main cut-out for some of his financial resources, such as Gaddafi or George Habash, was the friend of his sister, Dietmar Clodo, a known German terrorist and the leader of the Panther Brigade of the PFLP. Hungary expelled Carlos in late 1985, and he was refused sanctuary in Iraq, Libya and Cuba before he found limited support in Syria. He settled in Damascus with Kopp and their daughter, Elba Rosa.

The Syrian government forced Carlos to remain inactive, and he was subsequently seen as a neutralized threat. In 1990, the Iraqi government approached him for work and, in September 1991, he was expelled from Syria, which had supported the American intervention against the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. After a short stay in Jordan, he was accorded protection in Sudan where he lived in Khartoum.

Arrest and imprisonment

Carlos the Jackal was incarcerated in La Sante Prison in Paris (center). La-Sante-Prison-MCB.jpg
Carlos the Jackal was incarcerated in La Santé Prison in Paris (center).
Carlos the Jackal has been incarcerated in Clairvaux Prison since 2006. Kloster von Clairvaux, heute Strafanstalt.jpg
Carlos the Jackal has been incarcerated in Clairvaux Prison since 2006.

The French and US intelligence agencies offered a number of deals to the Sudanese authorities, and Sudan cooperated. In 1994, Carlos was scheduled to undergo a minor testicular operation in a hospital in Sudan. [37] Two days after the operation, Sudanese officials told him that he needed to be moved to a villa for protection from an assassination attempt and would be given personal bodyguards. One night later, the bodyguards went into his room while he slept, tranquilized and tied him, and took him from the villa. [38] On 14 August 1994, Sudan transferred him to French agents of the DST, who flew him to Paris for trial.

He was charged with the 1975 murders of the two Paris policemen and of Moukharbal and was sent to La Santé Prison to await trial. In 1996, a majority of the European Commission of Human Rights rejected his application related to the process of his capture. [39]

The trial began on 12 December 1997 and ended on December 23, when he was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. [40] [ failed verification ]

Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez had a sporadic correspondence with Ramírez Sánchez from the latter's prison cell in France. Chávez sent a letter in which he addresses Carlos as a "distinguished compatriot". [41] [42] [43]

In 2001, after converting to Islam, [44] Ramírez Sánchez married his lawyer, Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, in a Muslim ceremony, although he was still married to his second wife. [45]

In June 2003, Carlos published a collection of writings from his jail cell. The book, whose title translates as Revolutionary Islam , seeks to explain and defend violence in terms of class conflict. In the book, he voices support for Osama bin Laden and his attacks on the United States.

In 2005, the European Court of Human Rights heard a complaint from Ramírez Sánchez that his long years of solitary confinement constituted "inhuman and degrading treatment". In 2006 the court decided that Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment) had not been violated; however, Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) had been. Ramírez Sánchez was awarded €10,000 for costs and expenses, having made no claim for compensation for damage. [36]

In 2006, he was later moved from La Santé to Clairvaux Prison. [36] [46]

On 1 June 2006, Chávez referred to him as his "good friend" during a meeting of OPEC countries held in Caracas. [47]

On 20 November 2009, Chávez publicly defended Carlos, saying that he is wrongly considered to be "a bad guy" and that he believed Carlos had been unfairly convicted. Chávez also called him "one of the great fighters of the Palestine Liberation Organisation". [48] France summoned the Venezuelan ambassador and demanded an explanation. Chávez, however, declined to retract his comments. [49]

New trials

In May 2007, anti-terrorism judge Jean-Louis Bruguière ordered a new trial for Ramírez Sánchez on charges relating to "killings and destruction of property using explosive substances" in France in 1982 and 1983. The bombings killed eleven and injured more than 100 people. [50] Ramírez Sánchez denied any connection to the events in his 2011 trial, staging a nine-day hunger strike to protest his imprisonment conditions. [51] The trial began on 7 November 2011, in Paris. Three other members of Ramírez Sánchez's organization were tried in absentia at the same time: Johannes Weinrich, Christa Margot Fröhlich, and Ali Kamal Al-Issawi. Germany has refused to extradite Weinrich and Fröhlich, and Al-Issawi, a Palestinian, "is reportedly on the run." Ramírez Sánchez continues to deny any involvement in the attacks. [44] On 15 December 2011, Ramírez Sánchez, Weinrich and Issawi were convicted and sentenced to life in prison; Fröhlich was acquitted. [52] Ramírez Sánchez appealed against the verdict and a new trial began in May 2013. [53] He lost his appeal on 26 June 2013 and judges in a special anti-terrorism court upheld his life sentence. [54]

In October 2014, he was also charged for a Paris drugstore café attack in September 1974 that killed two and wounded 34. [55] After a lengthy appeal of the charges, in May 2016 his trial was ordered to proceed [56] and opened in March 2017. [57] On 28 March 2017, he was sentenced to a further life term for this attack. [58]

Political views

In his 2003 book, Revolutionary Islam, Ramírez Sánchez professed his admiration for the Iranian Revolution, writing that "Today, confronted by the threat to Civilization, there is a response: revolutionary Islam! Only men and women armed with a total faith in the founding values of truth, justice, and fraternity will be prepared to lead the combat and deliver humanity from the empire of mendacity." [59]




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Further reading