[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC TwoThis World


Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 January 2006, 10:28 GMT
The hunt for Black September
By Noam Shalev
Producer, Munich Operation Bayonet

On the eve of the release of Steven Spielberg's film Munich, the BBC gains exclusive access to the undercover Mossad agents assigned to track down the Palestinian group responsible for the murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Olympic Stadium, Munich

On 5 September 1972, in the middle of the Olympic Games in Munich, Germany, a group of Palestinians associated with the Black September organisation entered the Olympic village and took 11 Israeli athletes hostage.

They demanded the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons.

One Israeli was killed early in the morning, a second one was murdered during the negotiations, and in the evening it was agreed that the Palestinians and their hostages would travel to a nearby military airport where they would board helicopters and leave Germany.

The German police initiated a rescue operation which ended bitterly: nine Israeli athletes died.

Three of the hostage-takers escaped but were captured later hiding in another part of the airport.

Within days of the massacre, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir secretly ordered Mossad to hunt down and assassinate all those responsible for planning and carrying out the Munich killings.

Meir headed the "X Committee", responsible for approving dozens of operations targeting suspects across Europe and the Middle East.

Paris blast

The campaign was conducted by a specially trained hit-team, comprising of fewer than 20 men and code-named Bayonet.

T revisits Hamshari's apartment block in Paris
T had to monitor Hamshari's daily routine and gather information

Within six weeks of the Munich attacks, the Israeli agents were dispatched to Rome for their first assignment in which a suspected operative was killed.

The mission in Rome completed, the agents moved on to France where one Mossad operative - known as "T" to hide his identity - was to play a major role.

Members from other Mossad units, assisted by T, broke into the apartment of Mohammed al-Hamshari, a high-profile Palestine Liberation Organisation activist living in the middle of Paris.

Once inside Hamshari's home, they planted a small explosive underneath the telephone table.

All they had to do then was to make sure that Hamshari himself answered the phone so they could detonate the bomb.

"We verified that he was entering his flat alone," says T, "and once he entered the flat, we disappeared."

Hamshari died in the blast.


An elderly Israeli man, known only as "N", was the commander of Bayonet.

"The men were all idealists," he says. "In 99% of the cases the work was done perfectly. We did some great operations."

Ehud Barak
We decided that some of us would dress like women
Ehud Barak
Former Israeli Prime Minister

In most cases, the operations were conducted solely by Mossad agents.

For others, military commando units took part.

The most famous of these was the Spring of Youth operation in Beirut in April 1973 where the team, led by Mossad, targeted three leaders of Black September at once.

T met the commandos on the beach.

He said: "I arrived at the seashore and got a visual sign confirming the arrival of the troops. I drove my car and they followed me in other cars."

The military commander of the operation was Ehud Barak, who later became the prime minister of Israel.

"We knew that they would suspect a group of youngsters," he says, "so we decided that some of us would dress like women."

Heavily armed under their women's clothes, the commandos carried out their mission and killed their targets.

The wrong man

Three months later, in the Lillehammer ski resort in southern Norway, Mossad was ready to make another hit.

The target was Ali Hassan Salameh, one of the most popular Palestinian leaders of Black September and considered to be the mastermind of the Munich massacre.

On 21 July 1973, 15 Mossad agents arrived in the small town and lay in wait for Salameh.

But they got the wrong man.

They assassinated Ahmed Bouchiki, an innocent Moroccan waiter who had returned to the apartment with his pregnant wife. He died of bullet wounds from several close range shots.

As the Mossad agents tried to leave the country, six of them were arrested and sentenced to prison terms in Norway.

Final operation

But the Lillehammer fiasco did not stop the Bayonet operations, and in 1979 operatives finally got a chance to kill the man who had escaped them in Lillehammer.

In a long and complicated operation, Mossad recruited Erika Chambers, a British citizen.

She joined welfare organisations supporting Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and was invited to Beirut.

It was there that she engineered a meeting with Salameh.

She soon learned his daily routine, including the route he drove from his house to work.

Mossad rented an apartment overlooking this route and the plan to assassinate him was laid.

Mossad operative T remembers: "We were given explosives and someone had to mount them in her car. I did it."

Erika's car was parked on the side of the road beneath the apartment.

She had been trained to press a remote control and activate the explosion when she saw Salameh's convoy driving past her car.

The blast killed Salameh and eight other people.

This was the last Bayonet operation.

Between 1972 and 1979 more than a dozen Palestinians were assassinated, ensuring the total eradication of Black September.

Munich: Operation Bayonet was broadcast on Tuesday, 24 January, 2006, at 2320 GMT on BBC Two.

Munich: Operation Bayonet
18 Jan 06 |  This World
Sharon aide promotes Munich film
19 Dec 05 |  Entertainment
Hollywood honour for Munich film
12 Dec 05 |  Entertainment

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific