WHAT happened to those spectacular terrorist attacks of the Seventies in the name of world revolution? Why did they die out? What became of the man who led the kidnapping of the entire Opec meeting in Geneva in 1975 - Carlos - the most notorious of the terrorist leaders?
In the Seventies the leaders of several countries protected Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, the Venezuelan-born revolutionary. But the swath of terror, motivated by revolutionary ideals and the Palestinian cause, trailed off.
In 1982 Carlos declared war on France. The cause was no longer revolution but the demand for the release of Magdalena Kopp, the woman he was later to marry, who was in prison in France. On 25 February he sent a letter to the French Interior Minister, Gaston Defferre, demanding the release of Kopp and the man arrested with her, Bruno Breguet.
THE FRENCH cabinet went into emergency session. The possibility of quietly releasing the two was given serious consideration. A member of Defferre's staff did not agree with the decision that he saw about to be made. He believed that terrorism should be fought, that there should never be any concessions. No deals. He leaked the contents of the Carlos letter to Agence France-Presse, thereby pre-empting any deal.
Once the threat had beome public knowledge and then international knowledge, the French government dug in. There would be no deal.
On 29 March, precisely one month after the Carlos ultimatum, a Carlos group blew up the Capitole, the trans- Europe express from Paris to Toulon. The train, known as 'the Chirac train' because Jacques Chirac used it frequently, was travelling at over 100mph when a bomb ripped apart the compartment normally reserved for Chirac. Five people died and a further 27 were injured. The casualty figures could easily have been much higher. The train, carrying more than 400 people, miraculously stayed on the track as the first carriage fragmented.
On 3 April an Israeli diplomat, Yakov Barsimantov, was murdered, shot in the lobby of his Paris apartment. On 16 April a French Embassy official, Guy Cavallot, and his pregnant wife, Caroline, were murdered in their west Beirut apartment. The killers had masked their guns under a bouquet of flowers.
Three days later, Carlos directed his venom at French property in Vienna. A bomb blast wrecked the offices of Air France. A second bomb simultaneously exploded at the French Embassy in
On 22 April he bombed the French News Agency in Beirut and then, minutes before the trial of Kopp and Breguet was due to start in Paris, he hit the target that they had themselves been sent to Paris to attack.
This second, successful attempt originated from the Venezuelan's safe haven in Hungary. A member of the Carlos group, Christa Frohlich, using a false Swiss passport and forged documentation, hired an Opel car in Budapest. It was driven to a safe house in the city, where Carlos constructed a bomb. The number plates were changed, the new ones indicating that the car came from Vienna.
Frohlich then drove the car through Europe to its final destination, the offices of Al Watan Al Rabi in rue Marbeuf, Paris. As the prosecutor got to his feet to outline the case against Kopp and Breguet, the timing device, previously set by Frohlich, triggered a fearful explosion. The fashionable street was transformed in a moment to Beirut. A passer-by, yet another pregnant woman, was killed instantly, 60 more people were injured.
None of this could be rationalised as part of the Palestinian struggle. A terror campaign had been orchestrated in the name of Carlos's love for Magdalena Kopp. It was the ultimate obscenity. People were dying, being wounded, being terrorised, because one fat little man wished to be united with his girlfriend. Fascism of the heart.
The French court sentenced Breguet to five years and Kopp to four years for the possession and transportation of arms and explosives. The potentially far more serious charge of attempted murder lay unprocessed and for that Breguet could thank his inability to use an automatic gun.
With his mistress and Breguet duly sentenced during the last week of April, the French government braced itself for a response from Carlos. A telephone threat to blow up a French Riviera express train during the holiday period ensured armed patrolling guards and teams of bomb disposal experts with metal detectors on every train going south. The Venezuelan considered his options and flew to Beirut.
On 24 May, a car parked just inside the main French Embassy compound in Beirut exploded. Eleven people were killed, 27 more seriously injured. It was the Venezuelan's first response to the Paris court's verdict and sentence. There would be others.
THE campaign against France was a serious error: Carlos had gone too far for his East European sponsors, who cast him off. He turned to drug smuggling and made trips to Columbia in collaboration with a drugs cartel.
BY APRIL 1984 Carlos had, in the eyes of his East European protectors, overreached himself. When the Soviets turned the screw harder, Honecker in East Germany could no longer justify the presence of Carlos on Berlin soil with arguments that he was assisting the Palestinian struggle by giving Carlos safe haven. Neither could Husak in Czechoslovakia or Kadar in Hungary. His attacks in France and throughout Europe and the Middle East, attacks solely designed and carried out to obtain the freedom of his mistress, could not be seen by any sane person as being part of the Palestinian struggle for natural justice.
Shortly before Easter 1984, a top-level meeting between representatives of a number of East European countries took place in East Germany. A variety of secret services attended as well as government ministers.
Among other topics debated was the continuing problem of the Carlos group. It had never been particularly big; estimates vary, but the average figure quoted to me was 10. This was the hard-core group.
For certain operations it had been augmented with Syrians and Lebanese. With such a relatively small number, Carlos, ably assisted by Johannes Weinrich, had succeeded in continually throwing entire nations into total panic. Nearer to home, in his safe havens, his presence had also been felt. As the secret services compared notes, a clear pattern emerged. Carlos was very prone to boast not only about the size and power of the group that he commanded but also about their discipline. 'They are all professionals,' he would say. But there was nothing professional about the extraordinary number of prostitutes that consorted with the group. Each woman represented a security risk, particularly as virtually all of them had been hand-picked by that country's secret service.
There was the drunkenness, picking fights with the locals, roaring through red lights, shooting up hotel ceilings, the constant transgressions of promises given about when and where explosives and guns could be brought in. The group were drunk, not only on the alcohol they bought with hard currency but also on what they considered their successes. They considered themselves all- powerful and invincible. They were beginning to dabble in the internal politics of the various countries.
Enough was enough. The meeting took a unanimous decision. The wide- ranging facilities that had been offered to the Carlos group were to be withdrawn. No further operations would be planned and launched from the safe havens. Right of entry was withdrawn. The party was over.
'To the Ends of the Earth; the hunt for the Jackal' by David Yallop is published by Jonathan Cape on Thursday ( pounds 17.99). A film based on the book will be shown on BBC 2 on 6 March at 7.45pm.Reuse content