THE SEIZURE OF THE SAUDI ARABIAN EMBASSY IN KHARTOUM
In the early evening hours of 1 March 1973, eight Black September
Organization (BSO) terrorists seized the
Saudi Arabian Embassy in Khartoum as a diplomatic reception honoring the
departing United States Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) was ending. After slightly wounding the United States
Ambassador and the Belgian Charge d'Affaires, the terrorists took these
officials plus the United States DCM,
the Saudi Arabian Ambassador and the Jordanian Charge d'Affaires
hostage. In return for the freedom of the hostages, the captors demanded
the release of various individuals, mostly Palestinian guerrillas,
imprisoned in Jordan, Israel and the United States.
The Khartoum operation was planned and carried out with the full
knowledge and personal approval of Yasir Arafat, Chairman of the
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO),
and the head of Fatah. Fatah representatives based in Khartoum
participated in the attack, using a Fatah vehicle to transport the
terrorists to the Saudi Arabian Embassy.
Initially, the main objective of the attack appeared to be to secure the
release of Fatah/BSO leader Muhammed
Awadh (Abu Da'ud) from Jordanian captivity. Information acquired
subsequently reveals that the Fatah/BSO
leaders did not expect Awadh to be freed, and indicates that one of the
primary goals of the operation was to strike at the United States
because of its efforts to achieve a Middle East peace settlement which
many Arabs believe would be inimical to Palestinian interests.
Negotiations with the BSO terrorist team
were conducted primarily by the Sudanese Ministers of Interior and of
Health. No effort was spared, within the capabilities of the Sudanese
Government, to secure the freedom of the hostages. The terrorists
extended their deadlines three times, but when they became convinced
that their demands would not be met and after they reportedly had
received orders from Fatah headquarters in Beirut, they killed the two
United States officials and the Belgian Charge. Thirty-four hours later,
upon receipt of orders from Yasir Arafat in Beirut to surrender, the terrorists released their
other hostages unharmed and surrendered to Sudanese authorities.
The Khartoum operation again demonstrated the ability of the BSO to strike where least expected. The
open participation of Fatah representatives in Khartoum in the attack
provides further evidence of the Fatah/BSO relationship. The emergence of the United States as a
primary fedayeen target indicates a serious threat of further incidents
similar to that which occurred in Khartoum.
1 Source: Department of State, Khartoum
Embassy Files: Lot 80 F 170, Box 3, POL 23-8 Terrorism. Secret; No Foreign Dissem;
Controlled Dissem. Only the summary is published here.