The Mastermind Thirty years after he helped plan the terror strike, Abu Daoud remains in hiding--and unrepentant

August 25, 2002

Following the Oslo Accords of 1993, the mastermind of Black
September's Munich attack enjoyed a certain respectability.
Mohammed Daoud Oudeh, a.k.a. Abu Daoud, sat on the Palestinian
National Council, where in 1996 he joined a majority in voting
to revoke the clause in the PLO charter calling for Israel's
destruction. Though Israel had long known of his role at
Munich--Mossad was believed to have been involved in a 1981
assassination attempt in which he was shot six times--he even
carried an Israeli-issued VIP pass that allowed him to shuttle
between his home in Amman, Jordan, and the occupied territories.

All that changed in 1999 after Abu Daoud openly acknowledged his
role in the Olympic attack, both in his memoir, Palestine: From
Jerusalem to Munich, published in Paris, and in an interview with
the Arab TV network al-Jazeera. Germany issued an international
arrest warrant on Abu Daoud, and Israel canceled his travel
credentials, barring him from the Palestinian lands he had spent
his adult life trying to liberate. In the U.S., former senator
Howard Metzenbaum (D., Ohio)--who had watched the Munich crisis
unfold on TV with his neighbors in suburban Cleveland, the
parents of Israeli-American victim David Berger--led a campaign to
keep U.S. bookstores from stocking Abu Daoud's memoir. (Arcade,
which owns the U.S. rights, still hasn't set a publication date
for an English-language version of the book.)

In late July, SI's Don Yaeger went to the Middle East to find the
72-year-old Abu Daoud. After five days in Syria, where he met
with leaders of several Palestinian groups, including the
Palestinian Authority, PA president Yasir Arafat's Fatah faction
and the militant Hamas, Yaeger received a call from Abu Daoud,
who said he was in Cyprus. Abu Daoud, who would not reveal where
he resides--saying only that he lives with his wife on a pension
provided by the PA--agreed to answer written questions. Among his
claims, in his memoir and to SI, are these:

--Though he wasn't involved in conceiving or implementing it,
"the [Munich] operation had the endorsement of Arafat." Arafat
is not known to have responded to the allegations in Abu Daoud's
book. In May 1972 four Black Septembrists hijacked a Sabena
flight from Brussels to Tel Aviv, hoping to free comrades from
Israeli jails. But Israeli special forces stormed the plane,
killing or capturing all the terrorists and freeing every
passenger, leaving Arafat, by Abu Daoud's account, desperate to
boost morale in the refugee camps by showing that Israel was
vulnerable.

--Though he didn't know what the money was being spent for,
longtime Fatah official Mahmoud Abbas, a.k.a. Abu Mazen, was
responsible for the financing of the Munich attack. Abu Mazen
could not be reached for comment regarding Abu Daoud's
allegation. After Oslo in 1993, Abu Mazen went to the White
House Rose Garden for a photo op with Arafat, President Bill
Clinton and Israel's Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. "Do you
think that...would have been possible if the Israelis had known
that Abu Mazen was the financier of our operation?" Abu Daoud
writes. "I doubt it." Today the Bush Administration seeks a
Palestinian negotiating partner "uncompromised by terror," yet
last year Abu Mazen met in Washington with Secretary of State
Colin Powell.

--The German assertion that the team's two senior commandos had
infiltrated the Olympic Village in the weeks before the attack
isn't true. Abu Daoud speculates that the Germans found this
story useful, to make the attack seem like an inside job and
divert attention from their poor security measures.

--While he doesn't regret his role in the operation, Abu Daoud
told SI, "I would be against any operation like Munich ever
again. At the time, it was the correct thing to do for our
cause.... The operation brought the Palestinian issue into the
homes of 500 million people who never previously cared about
Palestinian victims at the hands of the Israelis." Today, he
says, an attack on an event like the Olympics would only damage
the Palestinians' image. --A.W.

B/W PHOTO: AFP/CORBIS "At the time, it was the correct thing to do for our cause," Abu Daoud told SI.
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