The explosion of the first helicopter in Munich

The Munich massacre was a terrorist attack committed by the Black September Organization on 6 September 1972 in Munich, West Germany during the 1972 Summer Olympics. Originating as the hostage-taking of the Israeli athletes in the Olympic Village, the event turned into a massacre when the Germans failed to rescue the athletes, leading to the terrorists killing 6 coaches, 5 athletes, and one policeman; five of the terrorists were killed. The massacre shocked the world, and it led to Operation Wrath of God, the assassination of those responsible.

Background

Black September

Ali Hassan Salameh

The Black September Organization was formed in 1970 in response to the "Black September in Jordan" war between the Jordanian government and the Palestine Liberation Organization guerrillas, the latter of which threatened to take over large parts of the country. The BSO was founded by the wealthy Ali Hassan Salameh, who wanted to target Israel and its allies overseas, as Jordan was to blame for the PLO's defeat in the short war, not Israel.

Planning

The Munich terrorists huddling in before taking the hostages

The BSO planned out its most audacious attack when it decided to attack the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany, with a commando of Palestinian guerrillas being assembled. Abu Daoud was the planner of these attacks, and he had assistance from neo-Nazi groups in Bavaria. The attackers would be Luttif Afif (the leader), Yusuf Nazzal, Ahmed Chic Thaa, Afif Ahmed Hamid, Khalid Jawad, Jamal al-Gashey, Adnan al-Gashey, and Mohammed Safady. The attackers wore western clothing and had aliases; Luttif Afif was "Issa", Nazzal was "Tony", Hamid was "Paolo", Jawad was "Salah", and Thaa was "Abu Halla". They flew into Munich, and they prepared for the attack.

Attack

Hostage-taking

The attackers scaling the fence into the Olympic Village

In the early hours of 5 September 1972, the Palestinian terrorists headed to the Olympic Village, but they had to face a locked chain link fence. They were helped over by some athletes from either America or Canada, and they headed to Connollystrasse 31, where the two apartments used by the Israeli olympians were located. Israeli wrestling coach Moshe Weinberg attempted to hold the door against the Palestinian terrorists when they began shouting, but they forced the door open and riddled him with bullets. The stronger athletes were still sleeping, preventing them from intervening in the hostage-taking, but Six-Day War veteran and weightlifter Yossef Romano attempted to resist the attackers before he, too, was gunned down. Some athletes escaped through a broken glass window, and the female athletes resided in a different building, leading to their survival. A total of nine Israeli athletes were taken hostage by the terrorists, and the Arabs demanded the release of 234 Palestinian prisoners in Israel in addition to the release of Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof in West Germany. Israel immediately refused to be blackmailed, while West Germany offered an unlimited sum of money for the hostages. However, the Palestinians refused every offer.

Rescue preparations

The hostage-takers and hostages watching the television

The Black September terrorists held the Israeli athletes in their rooms, with the two dead Israelis still lying on the floor. The terrorists demanded access to an Arab country via airplane, and the West German authorities decided to feign agreement to allowing them to head to Cairo, Egypt. However, they had Munich policemen (with no experience in counter-terrorism or hostage rescue) carry out the operation, as they lacked a counter-terrorist unit. They dressed in Olympic sweatsuits, and they prepared to ambush the hostage-takers as they left the buildings. However, the Palestinians were alerted to their presence by noise, and demanded that they be allowed to take a bus to the airfield at Furstenfeldbruck. The German authorities reluctantly agreed.

Massacre

Jamal al-Gashey and Luttif Afif running from the first helicopter explosion

Late on the night of 5 September, the Germans set their plan in motion. They sent APCs to the airfield, where the hostages were being held in two helicopters as the Palestinians prepared to fly off with them. The Germans decided to send an ambush team to stay in the plane, but they voted unanimously to desert, leaving just a few snipers to fight the terrorists. They opened fire on the terrorists, leading to Afif shooting the four hostages in one of the helicopters before blowing it up with a grenade. The snipers killed Afif shortly after, and Thaa and Jawad were also gunned down by snipers at the scene. Afif Ahmed Hamid was tracked down early in the morning of 6 September by police dogs, and he was bombarded by tear gas before being gunned down. Mohammed Safady and the al-Gashey cousins were captured after being wounded.

Aftermath

The massacre left eleven athletes, five terrorists, and one policeman dead in one of the world's most infamous acts of terror. The aftermath was one of both mourning and vengeance; the Israeli Mossad agency launched "Operation Wrath of God", in which they assassinated several PLO leaders that were believed to have been responsible for the massacre. The Mossad took out targets across Western Europe, with a few being in the Middle East (targeted in Operation Spring of Youth) and some in the Eastern Bloc. The vengeance campaign would end in the 1990s, by which time the BSO leaders had been assassinated.

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