Banna, Sabri Al- (Abu Nidal; 1939–2002?)
BANNA, SABRI AL- (Abu Nidal; 1939–2002?)
Terrorist, born in Palestine. Sabri al-Banna came from a wealthy Jaffa family that, in 1948, at the time of the first Israeli-Arab conflict, sought refuge in the Gaza Strip and later went to Nablus in the West Bank. In 1955, he went to Egypt to study to be a technician but never completed his secondary education. He joined the Baʿth Party in Jordan in the mid-1950s and later worked in Saudi Arabia but was expelled in 1967. After the Arab defeat in the Arab-Israel War of June 1967, he joined Yasir Arafat's al-Fatah, where he was associated with the security services, directed by Salah Khalaf.
In 1970, after a stay in Khartoum, Sudan, he became al-Fatah representative in Iraq. In 1974, after the Arab defeat in the Arab-Israel War of 1973, he opposed the "realist" policy of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and was expelled from Fatah. With the help of Iraq (for whose intelligence service he had been working), he created his own movement. At first called Political Committee for the Palestinian Revolution, this group took the name of Fatah Revolutionary Council (Fatah RC). Supported by Baghdad, the Fatah RC worked for the Iraqi Baʿthists in their feud with the Syrian Baʿthists. It also advocated extreme escalation in the struggle against Israel, and by November had begun carrying out a significant number of attacks directed against Israelis and Westerners as well as against Palestinians it considered too moderate. In claiming credit for these actions, the movement used sometimes the names Black June or Arab Revolutionary Brigades.
Between 1982 and 1987, Abu Nidal organized many terrorist actions, including assassinations and some spectacular mass murders in Paris, Rome, Madrid, Vienna, Istanbul, and elsewhere. In 1982, the attempted assassination of the Israeli ambassador in London became the pretext for Israel's invasion of Lebanon that year (the Israelis publicly blamed the PLO). In 1983, Baghdad, needing American help in fighting the Iran-Iraq War, officially withdrew its support and asked Abu Nidal to leave the country. He went to Syria, which used him to apply pressure on Jordan to keep it from helping the PLO open a dialogue with the United States and Israel. In 1985, with the support of Libya, he tried but failed to forge an alliance with the Fatah-Intifada that would have constituted an opposition front capable of competing with the Fatah of Yasir Arafat.
Syria expelled Abu Nidal in 1986, after which he was received by Colonel Qaddafi in Libya. In 1988, after the Iran-Iraq War, he returned to Baghdad, all the while maintaining a strategic base in Libya. In the summer of 1989, relations with the PLO broke down irremediably, leading to a wave of assassinations involving his associates and those of Yasir Arafat. In 1990, some members of his movement contested his authority and created a faction called Fatah Revolutionary Council–Emergency Command. There followed a succession of internal executions. In January 1991, obliged once more to leave Iraq, Abu Nidal moved to Lebanon, then to Libya. Rejecting the Israeli-Arab peace process delineated by the Madrid Conference of 1991 (without proposing any alternative), Abu Nidal found himself isolated within the Palestinian resistance. In July 1998, weakened by illness and by the maneuvering of his entourage, which aimed at taking over his movement, he left Libya to seek medical care in Egypt. In 1999, Abu Nidal returned to Baghdad. He is reported to have died in August 2002, either a suicide (officially) or at the hands of the Iraqi security services.