How Carlos was tracked down to his lair

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The Independent Online
SUCCESS has many fathers. But it was Carlos's aspirations to paternity that ended his years of defying the world's law enforcement agencies. His wish to prolong his line was his undoing.

He underwent fertility treatment after tests showed he had a low sperm count, according to Mahmoud Abdulla, general manager of Ibn Khaldoon private hospital. While convalescing from a minor operation to clear a blocked sperm duct in his right testicle he was captured and bundled on to a plane to France.

A week later, many questions remain. How could Carlos live incognito for so long in the Sudanese capital? What deal, if any, was struck between France and Sudan? Who provided his passport?

In the official Sudanese version, Carlos arrived in Khartoum exactly one year before he unwillingly left, on 15 August. In the official version, he came to the notice of the authorities in mid-October 1993, during a routine review of people entering the country. He had a diplomatic passport, but was not accredited to any Arab embassy, had not contacted the foreign ministry, and was not recorded leaving the country.

It emerged that he had entered the country from an unnamed Arab country on a diplomatic passport from an unnamed Arab country with two unidentified Arabs who left two weeks later. After a week at the Hilton hotel he moved into a large but dingy flat in a street opposite the airport.

The authorities were alerted to his presence after a scuffle. He was detained for three days - highly irregular for the holder of an Arab diplomatic passport. He was questioned, and his flat was searched. It was then, according to the official statement, that suspicions were aroused that this might be Carlos. He was closely watched. The French meanwhile contacted the Sudanese and told them that Carlos was in Sudan. By 15 May Sudanese authorities confirmed it was Carlos. On 3 August, the French requested his surrender. And when he returned to hospital for a check-up on Sunday 14 August, he was seized.

This official version clashes with other evidence. The hospital insists he was admitted on Friday, operated on at 3.30pm on Saturday and released. Carlos's lawyer in Paris says he was taken from the hospital to a flat where he was drugged and bound.

Eyewitnesses say Carlos did not act like a terrorist trying to hide. Indeed, he was at large rather than on the run for 20 years thanks to the benevolent attitude of the region's more uncompromising regimes, especially Syria.

In Khartoum, the former playboy lived the nearest thing to the life of Riley that an Islamic regime can permit. He frequented the social clubs of the Greeks, Armenians and Copts who dominated the trading houses until economic collapse and Islamic zealotry drove most of them away. Carlos was always at parties and weddings. He loved to dance and to drink. Stacks of whisky bottles were left in his flat, or planted by the authorities.

Everyone knew him as Abdu, short for Abdullah Barakat, the name he assumed. He explained his broken Arabic by saying he had a Cuban father and a Lebanese mother. He was frequently seen with the woman he declared as his wife, a Palestinian Christian travelling on a Jordanian passport, and was said to have had a liaison with a local woman. Many of those who socialised with him were amazed to discover who he was.

He usually travelled with an armed driver, something very special in Khartoum. And he appeared on good terms with security men at the Hilton and elsewhere. Khartoum is a small place. The evidence suggests the Sudanese knew about Carlos and protected him.

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