Feature

Mohammed Oudeh, 1937–2010

The terrorist who planned the attack at the Munich Olympics

Organizers of the 1972 Munich Olympic Games promoted the competition as “the carefree Games.” But it turned into a horror show after eight Palestinian terrorists, organized and directed by Mohammed Oudeh, took 11 members of the Israeli team hostage. They killed two athletes during the assault, and the rest were killed, along with five hostage-takers, during a botched rescue attempt. Oudeh never expressed remorse for the atrocity. “Would you believe me if I tell you that if I had to do it all over, I would?” he said in 2008.

Oudeh, who died last week in Syria, was better known in the Arab world by his nom de guerre, Abu Daoud, said The Washington Post. Born in Jerusalem, he lived there—teaching school and earning a law degree—until 1967, when Israeli forces captured the eastern part of the city in the Six-Day War. He fled to Jordan, where he joined Black September, a militant offshoot of the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s Fatah organization.

Oudeh conceived of the Munich assault as a way to draw world attention to the Palestinians’ plight, said the Associated Press. “Before Munich, we were simply terrorists,” he said in 2006. “After Munich, at least people started asking, ‘Who are these terrorists? What do they want?’” He did not take part in the operation, reportedly issuing final instructions to the terrorist squad over dinner in a Munich restaurant the night before the attack.

In the ensuing years, Israeli agents assassinated several top Palestinian officials believed to have been involved in the massacre. But Oudeh remained at large, said The New York Times, though his role in the atrocity “was well-known to American and Israeli officials.” His closest brush with death came in 1981, when a gunman shot him three times while he sat in a Warsaw coffee shop. After that incident, “he lived in exile and on the run” in Eastern Europe, Jordan, and the West Bank. He died of kidney failure, a few days after issuing a statement vowing that his grandchildren would continue to fight Israel.

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