Carlos held after 20-year manhunt: Scotland Yard may question killer who is said to have been behind series of terrorist attacks in London

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The Independent Online
SCOTLAND YARD said last night it may seek to interview Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, the international terrorist better known as 'Carlos', whose arrest by French police yesterday, after a secret extradition from Sudan, ended a 20-year hunt by the world's security forces.

British police would not say whether there are outstanding warrants against him, but Carlos is presumed to have been behind a number of terrorist attacks in London, his base in the early 1970s.

Announcing his capture, Charles Pasqua, France's Interior Minister, said Carlos was responsible for the killing of 83 people, 15 in France. He is 'the best-known and the most dangerous terrorist on the national and international plane'.

His most infamous operation on British soil, for which he claimed responsibility, was in December 1973, when he tried to kill Joseph Edward Sieff, who was chairman of Marks & Spencer and the vice-president of the Zionist Federation in Britain. Although Carlos shot him in the face with a pistol at his home in St John's Wood, Sieff survived. Carlos, now 44, operated from the homes of London-based girlfriends which were used to hide weapons, cash and false papers.

He carried out a string of terrorist attacks in the 1970s, including the hostage-taking of oil ministers at an Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) conference in Vienna in December 1975. After a gun battle in which three people died, Carlos demanded and got a jet with a volunteer crew. This took the terrorists to Algiers and Tripoli, then back to Algiers before he freed the last hostages.

The delivery of Carlos into the hands of the DST, France's counter-espionage service, ended a hunt by a service seeking to avenge the deaths of two of its officers shot by Carlos in Paris in 1975. Mr Pasqua said the killing began 'a long pursuit on the French side with the help of several friendly services. This hunt was never abandoned.'

Mr Pasqua, explaining 'there are some things I can't say and others I don't know', gave few details of the arrest of Carlos, saying only that he was arrested on Sunday by the Sudanese authorities and flown to Villacoublay, the French government's VIP airport south of Paris. Mr Pasqua declined even to say to which country the aircraft carrying Carlos belonged or where he was being held, saying only that he was in DST hands. French radio reports said he had been taken to La Sante prison in central Paris.

Carlos, born into the family of a Marxist lawyer in Venezuela, was educated at Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow before being expelled from the Soviet Union for raucous behaviour. His first name, Ilich, was the patronymic of Vladimir Lenin.

Mr Pasqua said the DST had discovered that Carlos was in Sudan at the start of this year. Most recently, he was reported to be living in Damascus with his wife, Magdalena Kopp - herself a one-time member of the Baader-Meinhof gang - and their daughter, Rosa.

Ten days ago, France sent Sudan a written request to extradite Carlos on the basis of an international arrest warrant. Mr Pasqua insisted Sudan had agreed without any negotiation, even though Khartoum could be expected to be sympathetic towards a man who fought for radical Arab causes. Yesterday, Sudan said its capture of Carlos reflected its opposition to terrorism, but denied it extradited him to improve its international image. Sudanese officials said Carlos came to Khartoum to plan assaults on foreign targets in Sudan, and that agents had him under surveillance before France requested his arrest. However, Sudan's Justice Minister, Abdel-Azziz Shado, urged the US yesterday to consider taking Sudan off a list of countries that sponsor terrorism.

Carlos was sentenced to life imprisonment by a French court in absentia in June 1992. Now he is in custody, he will face a retrial. Officials in Berlin said that Germany would seek his extradition, to face trial for a bomb attack in 1983.

(Photograph omitted)

Leading article, page 15

Robert Fisk, page 17

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