Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, Volume E-6, Documents on Africa, 1973-1976
Released by the Office of the Historian
THE SEIZURE OF THE SAUDI ARABIAN EMBASSY IN KHARTOUM
In the early evening hours of 1 March 1973, eight Black September
Organization (BSO) terrorists seized the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Khartoum
as a diplomatic reception honoring the departing United States Deputy Chief
of Mission (DCM) was ending. After slightly wounding the United States
Ambassador and the Belgian Charge d'Affaires, the terrorists took these
officials plus the United States DCM, the Saudi Arabian Ambassador and the
Jordanian Charge d'Affaires hostage. In return for the freedom of the
hostages, the captors demanded the release of various individuals, mostly
Palestinian guerrillas, imprisoned in Jordan, Israel and the United States.
The Khartoum operation was planned and carried out with the full knowledge
and personal approval of Yasir Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation
Organization (PLO), and the head of Fatah. Fatah representatives based in
Khartoum participated in the attack, using a Fatah vehicle to transport the
terrorists to the Saudi Arabian Embassy.
Initially, the main objective of the attack appeared to be to secure the
release of Fatah/BSO leader Muhammed Awadh (Abu Da'ud) from Jordanian
captivity. Information acquired subsequently reveals that the Fatah/BSO
leaders did not expect Awadh to be freed, and indicates that one of the
primary goals of the operation was to strike at the United States because of
its efforts to achieve a Middle East peace settlement which many Arabs
believe would be inimical to Palestinian interests.
Negotiations with the BSO terrorist team were conducted primarily by the
Sudanese Ministers of Interior and of Health. No effort was spared, within
the capabilities of the Sudanese Government, to secure the freedom of the
hostages. The terrorists extended their deadlines three times, but when they
became convinced that their demands would not be met and after they
reportedly had received orders from Fatah headquarters in Beirut, they
killed the two United States officials and the Belgian Charge. Thirty-four
hours later, upon receipt of orders from Yasir Arafat in Beirut to
surrender, the terrorists released their other hostages unharmed and
surrendered to Sudanese authorities.
The Khartoum operation again demonstrated the ability of the BSO to strike
where least expected. The open participation of Fatah representatives in
Khartoum in the attack provides further evidence of the Fatah/BSO
relationship. The emergence of the United States as a primary fedayeen
target indicates a serious threat of further incidents similar to that which
occurred in Khartoum.
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