December 21, 1975: ‘Carlos the Jackal’ leads a hostage taking in Austria

On December 21, 1975 six terrorists led by Carlos the Jackal took hostages at OPEC HQ in Vienna after killing three people.

VIENNA, AUSTRIA – There is nothing like a cool terrorist name to strike fear in the hearts of many, right?

Nicknames are interesting phenomena, aren’t they? The choice to use another way to refer to someone may seem odd – what, after all is wrong with my given name? – but the practice is a longstanding one. Just look at some of the more (in)famous nicknames in history:

  • “Rattlesnake Dick” Barter, part of a gang that was known for stagecoach robberies during the California Gold Rush days;
  • Vikings Ivar the Boneless and Eystein the Fart;
  • Elvis The Pelvis and Sir Swivel Hips, both used to describe Elvis Presley; and
  • Polish King Wladyslaw the ‘Elbow-high’.
Hey! Who are you calling a boneless fart? (Photo: Frank Douwes on flickr, CC BY 2.0)

Bad guys have also had their monikers which betray their nastiness. Think of Genghis Khan, sometimes called ‘The Destroyer’. Or Attila the Hun, known in Latin as Flagellum Dei (the Scourge of God).

And then there is Carlos the Jackal. Born Ilich Ramírez Sánchez in Venezuela in 1949, he became a renowned global terrorist in the 1970s and 1980s.

On this day in 1975

The Jackal was behind a notorious siege and kidnapping at the headquarters of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in Vienna.

Six terrorists led by the Jackal attacked the semi-annual meeting of OPEC leaders, taking more than 60 hostages after killing an Austrian policeman, an Iraqi OPEC security officer, and a Libyan economist. The terrorists and their hostages were flown to Algeria where, after a few days of tense negotiations, all were released: the terrorists also walked away.

He shot me in the a…, but I showed him!

Austrian police officer wounded in the siege

Ramirez was eventually handed over to French authorities in late 1994. He was charged over the 1975 murder of two French policemen and convicted, receiving a life sentence. It seems the ‘Jackal’s‘ roaming free days are over.

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By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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