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1972: Olympic hostages killed in gun battle

All nine of the Israeli athletes kidnapped on Tuesday from the Olympic Village in Munich have been killed in a gun battle at a nearby airport.

A policeman also died in the shooting at the Furstenfeldbruck military airbase, along with four of the guerrillas from the Palestinian group Black September.

Witnesses at the airport said the shooting began when police snipers opened fire on the militants.

A spokesman for the Olympic Games said the kidnappers had blown up a helicopter with the hostages inside and then opened fire on the wreckage with automatic weapons.

It is believed that the remaining four gunmen have been captured by West German police.

The guerrillas had previously threatened to kill all the hostages if 200 Palestinian prisoners held in Israel were not released.

News of the deaths was confirmed at 0310 BST, contradicting an earlier announcement by a Munich police officer that all the hostages had been released and four of the kidnappers captured.

The bloody end to the kidnapping followed a day of tense negotiations with the Palestinians.

Gun battle

They had occupied the Israelis' quarters at 0600 BST yesterday, killing two athletes and taking nine hostages.

The West German government had offered to pay any price for the release of the athletes, but was told by the guerrillas' chief he cared for "neither money nor lives".

German authorities agreed to demands by the Palestinians to supply them with an aeroplane, and at 2200 BST provided three helicopters to take them to the airport.

The gun battle started almost immediately after the helicopters landed at the airport.

Bavarian Minister of the Interior Bruno Merk confirmed Munich's police chief had given the order to open fire.

It is not clear whether the Olympic Games will continue, but the Israeli and Egyptian teams have already withdrawn.

In Context
It was confirmed on 7 September that five of the Palestinian gunmen were killed and three captured.

The Olympic Games continued, but serious questions were raised about the handling of the crisis by the Munich police.

The captured militants were released just eight weeks after the siege, when two Palestinians hijacked a Lufthansa plane in Beirut and demanded their release.

The West German government immediately agreed, and they were flown to Libya.

The Israeli secret service, Mossad, formed a special unit that hunted down and killed two of the three surviving Munich terrorists.

In 2000 an award-winning documentary - One Day in September - detailed the events.


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