Magazine Says it Interviewed Top Terrorist

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"Magazine Says It Interviewed Top Terrorist"

Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, Alias Carlos the Jackal

Newspaper article

By: New York Times

Date: December 1, 1979

Source: New York Times

About the Author: The New York Times, a daily newspaper founded in 1851, has over one million subscribers and is distributed nationally.


Ilich Ramírez Sánchez (1949–) was a terrorist, mercenary, and revolutionary between the 1970s and the 1990s. Ramírez Sánchez was known by the pseudonym "Carlos the Jackal," because he had taken the name Carlos while training with Soviet fighters and, later, because police allegedly found the Frederick Forsyth novel The Day of the Jackal while raiding Sánchez's hotel room. As a youth, Carlos joined the Communist party and was involved with Venezuelan revolutionary groups. After being expelled from universities in London and Moscow, Carlos joined a guerrilla training camp in Amman, Jordan run by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)—with hopes of fighting in Venezuela.

Deciding against returning to Venezuela, Carlos joined the PFLP. He began his terrorism career in 1973 with a failed assassination attempt against Jewish businessman Edward Sieff, allegedly as revenge for the killing of a high-ranking PFLP member. Over the next several years, Carlos was responsible for carrying out attacks using such devices as car bombs, fragmentation grenades, and rocket propelled bombs. In September 1974, Carlos walked into a Paris cafe, threw a fragmentation grenade, and walked out. Carlos frequently used this method—casually walking into and out of his targets—during several subsequent bombings. The bomb detonation at the Paris cafe resulted in the deaths of two people along with numerous injuries. Carlos stated that his intention was to pressure French officials to negotiate the release of hostages associated with another terrorist group, the Japanese Red Army.

In 1976, PFLP leader Wadi Haddad expelled Carlos after he failed to kill two Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) hostages, the oil ministers of Saudi Arabia and Iran. Both men became targets because PFLP leaders felt each country was not dedicated to the Palestinian cause. Carlos was also ejected because of his growing fame around the world and because he allegedly embezzled money paid for the release of the hostages—an amount estimated at between $20 and $50 million.

After being expelled, Carlos went to Aden, Yemen, to form his own rebel group composed of Lebanese, West German, Swiss, and Syrian terrorists under the name Organization of Arab Armed Struggle. Carlos set up the organization, critics contended, for monetary profit without real concern for the Arab struggle. He offered his organization's expertise to eastern European organizations such as Communist Romania's secret police and East Germany's Ministry for State Security, along with Cuba's Fidel Castro. However, the organization did not perform any terrorist acts until 1982, when it unsuccessfully attempted to destroy a French nuclear power station. The violent act resulted in two members of his group (including his wife, Magdalena Kopp) being arrested in Paris. To avenge their imprisonment, Carlos organized a series of bomb attacks on civilian French locations and overseas French diplomatic facilities in order to press for her release.

In 1983, Carlos attacked sites in Europe, his acts of political terrorism causing his expulsion from Europe. Subsequently refused entry into Iraq, Libya, and Cuba, Carlos eventually found a temporary home in Syria. When he angered Syrian officials, Carlos moved to Jordan, but eventually relocated to Khartoum, Sudan. The Sudanese, however, did not approve of Carlos' reported playboy lifestyle. Government officials forced him to France in August 1994 to stand trial for the killing of two French counter-intelligence agents and a Lebanese rebel/police informer. Found guilty, Carlos was sentenced to life imprisonment.

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During his time in prison, Carlos published a book called Revolutionary Islam in which he described terrorism as a conflict between classes. He also stated that he converted to Islam, and expressed his support of Osama Bin Laden, labeling Bin Laden the appropriate leader to continue the fight against Western society.

The significance of Carlos' actions with regard to terrorism is cloudy at best. Many terrorist attacks were credited to him simply for the fact that no other likely suspects were found. For instance, Carlos was falsely linked for a time to the attack at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972 that killed eleven athletes from West Germany and Israel. Carlos also bragged of orchestrating terrorist activities that never occurred under his direction.

The majority of the terrorist attacks committed by Carlos were considered ineffective. For example, Carlos shot a prominent British businessman who supported Israel, but his victim survived; he later threw a bomb into an Israeli bank in London, but the bomb only partially exploded; he bombed several pro-Israeli newspaper offices in Paris without casualties; and he fired rocket-propelled grenades against Israeli El Al airplanes at Orly airport in France that failed to cause significant damage.

On the other hand, Carlos did carry out many atrocious crimes. He is credited with killing over eighty people, injuring thousands of others, and causing millions of dollars of property damage mostly motivated, analysts claim, out of his contempt for authority.

When Carlos rebelled against society, his violent actions were often cited by other terrorists as exciting and daring. Captured terrorists have claimed they received inspiration from Carlos' actions, especially with regards to his previous playboy lifestyle and violent activities. In 1994, Carlos the Jackal was apprehended and confined in a French prison.

The news article reporting the interview with Carlos was among the first English language accounts of the interview. The reports sparked controversy within the journalistic community as to how much protection journalists should offer wanted terrorists in order to secure interviews. That debate continues as news organizations are used by terrorist organizations to release statements and video to the public.



Smith, Colin. Carlos: Portrait of a Terrorist. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1977.

Follain, John. Jackal: The Complete Story of the Legendary Terrorist, Carlos the Jackal. New York: Arcade Publishing, 1998.

Yallop, David A. To the Ends of the Earth: The Hunt for the Jackal. London: Jonathan Cape, 1993.

Web sites

BBC Online News. "Carlos the Jackal: Trail of Terror." <> (accessed June 3, 2005).

Court TV's Crime Library. Bellamy, Patrick. "Carlos the Jackal: Three Decades of Crime." <> (accessed June 3, 2005).

Weekly Standard. Taheri, Amir. Accessed on Benador Associates. "The Axis of Terror: Carlos the Jackal Pledges Alliance to Osama Bin Laden." <> (accessed June 3, 2005).

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Magazine Says it Interviewed Top Terrorist

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