U.S. Ambassador to Sudan Assassinated

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U.S. Ambassador to Sudan Assassinated

"U.S. Ambassador to Sudan and His Aide Reported Seized by Guerrillas at Party"

Newspaper article

By: Richard D. Lyons

Date: March 2, 1973

Source: New York Times.

About the Author: At the time the primary source was written, Richard D. Lyons was a reporter for the New York Times.


Early in the evening of March 1, 1979, United States Ambassador to the Sudan Cleo A. Noel, Jr., along with George Curtis Moore (Noel's Chargé d'Affaires, or deputy chief of mission) and Guy Eid (a Belgian diplomat), were kidnapped by eight masked gunmen while exiting a diplomatic reception at the Saudi Arabian embassy in Khartoum, the capital of the Sudan in north-central Africa.

After securing their prisoners, the terrorists sent out leaflets demanding the release of Sirhan Sirhan (the Palestinian assassin of Robert Kennedy) held in California, Palestinian women held in Israeli prisons, Palestinian terrorists (including Abu Daoud) held in Jordan and Israel, several members of the Baader-Meinhof gang held in Germany, and other hostages.

The terrorists were soon identified as members of the Black September Organization (BSO), a secret Palestinian terrorist group controlled by the intelligence organization, Jihaz al-Rasd, which is headed by Fatah, the main party of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Although U.S. President Richard Nixon publicly refused to negotiate directly with the terrorists, third parties conducted discrete negotiations. On March 2, 1973, the Israeli government recorded radio conversations between leaders of the PLO in Beirut, Lebanon, and the BSO members in Khartoum.

According to transcripts of these conversations, at around 8:00 p.m. (local Khartoum time), Abu-Iyad called Abu-Ghassan, one of the terrorists, in order to give him the coded message: "Remember Nahr al-Bard 'Cold River.' The people's blood in the Narh al-Bard is screaming for revenge. These are our final orders. We and the world are watching you." (Cold River was the code to execute the prisoners.)

About an hour later, the eight terrorists lined up the three bound men against a basement wall and shot them. Thinking the executions had not taken place, PLO chairman Yasir Arafat then talked with Abu-Ghassan, asking him: "Why are you waiting? The people's blood in the Cold River cries for vengeance." Abu-Ghassan responded back to Arafat verifying that the order had been carried out.

Authorities assume that later in the month, the tape produced by Israel was given to the U.S. State Department and the White House. Its authenticity was verified by U.S. technical laboratories and its accuracy was later confirmed by Israeli General Ariel Sharon. In addition, at least one National Security Agency (NSA), employee subsequentely claimed to have received transcripts of dialogue between Arafat and his subordinates.

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After killing the three diplomats, the eight Palestinian terrorists voluntarily surrendered to Sudanese police authorities on March 3, 2005. Two of the Black September men were later released because of insufficient evidence to prosecute, while the other six were found guilty on June 24, 1974, and sentenced to life in prison. Within hours of the sentencing, however, the Sudanese president commuted their life sentence to seven years. Later, the six men were taken to Cairo, Egypt, and released to the PLO. Three of the prisoners escaped, while the other three men served out their sentences and were eventually released from prison.

The incident at Khartoum raised attention to Yassir Arafat's PLO involvment with attacks on U.S. citizens. A 1986 report by the Senate Judiciary Committee titled "The Availability of Civil and Criminal Actions Against Yassir Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization" listed forty-two incidents between the years of 1968 and 1985 where American citizens were injured or killed from violent acts carried out by Arafat's organizations.

Increased tensions between Arafat, the PLO, and the U.S. made more difficult a peaceful resolution between the Palestinians and the Israelis with respect to the land disputes of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and Israel itself. Because many Arabs assume that the United States exerts strong influence over Israel, they also consider the United States their enemy. As a result, many Arab terrorist groups, such as the PLO, have perpetrated violent acts against U.S. citizens and U.S. property in the Middle East and around the world.

Incidents such as the murder of American diplomats Noel and Moore provide evidence of the violent means used by separatist terrorist groups against third parties.



Gowers, Andrew. Behind the Myth: Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Revolution. London: W.H. Allen, 1990.

Gowers, Andrew. Inside the PLO: Covert Units, Secret Funds, and the War Against Israel and the United States. New York: Morrow, 1990.

Korn, David A. Assassination in Khartoum. Bloomington, IN: University Press, 1993.

Web sites

USA Today.com. "U.S. had Stormy Relationship with Arafat." <http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2004-11-11-stormy-arafat_x.htm> (accessed June 2, 2005).

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U.S. Ambassador to Sudan Assassinated

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