BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Europe
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Thursday, 15 February, 2001, 20:55 GMT
Christmas killings that shocked the world
Hans-Joachim Klein
Klein was wounded in the gun battle
The brutal attack for which Hans-Joachim Klein has been jailed was one of the most audacious carried out by Carlos the Jackal.

Ministers from the Opec oil-producing countries had gathered in the normally serene surroundings of the Austrian capital, Vienna, just before Christmas 1975.

It was mid-morning on 20 December - the conference's final day - when six armed militants, led by Carlos himself, stormed the conference centre.

More than 80 hostages were seized; 11 of them were government ministers.

Carlos the Jackal
Carlos the Jackal: Led gang of killers
An Austrian policemen died as he tried to intervene. An Iraqi bodyguard and a delegate from Libya were also gunned down by the gang.

For 21 hours, the siege continued, as the world's media relayed events to a shocked public. Finally, Saudi Arabia agreed to pay a ransom of $50m.

The gang fled to the airport, with 15 of their original hostages in tow, and forced them aboard a waiting plane provided by the authorities as part of the ransom deal.


The Austrian plane flew the gang and their captives to Algiers, where the ordeal for the hostages finally ended on 23 December.

Klein himself had been shot in the stomach, but managed to reach the getaway plane.

The attack had been carried out in the name of Palestinian rights, but Klein testified at his trial that Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi had been behind it, and that the Libyans had even been able to provide details of security within the conference venue.

Klein insists he had no direct part in the killings, but he was found guilty of the three murders, and of attempted murder and kidnapping.

Joschka Fischer
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer acted as character witness for Klein
The judge, however, accepted that his was a minor role and that he had since renounced his violent past.

It was 1998 before he was captured in France, where he had lived in a Normandy village for five years posing as a journalist named Dirk Claussen. Police moved in as he ate in a bistro in the village.

Carlos himself - real name Ilich Ramirez Sanchez - was captured in Sudan in 1994 and, after a headline-grabbing trial, was jailed in France for killing two intelligence agents.

For Klein's trial, Carlos was brought from his cell to testify against the man he now regarded as a traitor to the cause, for his public renunciation of violence.

'James Bond'

Carlos named Klein as the killer of the Iraqi bodyguard, claiming he had shot him between the eyes as he moved in to arrest the gang's only female member, known as Nada.

But the German judge accepted Klein's story that he had not been responsible.

Klein had, said the judge, obviously been fascinated with Carlos, whom he described as a "James Bond-type with mafia elegance".

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

15 Feb 01 | Europe
Fischer's former ally jailed
23 Jan 01 | Europe
Fischer 'could have met' militant
09 Jan 01 | Europe
Schroeder backs foreign minister
17 Oct 00 | Europe
Jackal ally tried for Opec kidnap
15 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Germany
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories