1949-10-12 to Present
Venezuela, FranceIlich Ramírez Sánchez (born 12 October 1949), also known as Carlos the Jackal, is a Venezuelan terrorist currently serving a life sentence in France for the 1975 murder of an informant for the French government and two French counter-intelligence agents. While in prison he was further convicted of attacks in France that killed 11 and injured 150 people and sentenced to an additional life term in 2011, and then to a third life term in 2017.
From Moscow Ramírez Sánchez traveled to Beirut, Lebanon, where he volunteered for the PFLP (The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) in July 1970. He was sent to a training camp for foreign volunteers of the PFLP on the outskirts of Amman, Jordan. On graduating, he studied at a finishing school, code-named H4 and staffed by the Iraqi military, near the Syria-Iraq border.
In 1973, Carlos conducted a failed PFLP assassination attempt on Joseph Sieff, a Jewish businessman and vice president of the British Zionist Federation. On 30 December, Carlos called on Sieff's home on Queen's Grove in St John's Wood and ordered the maid to take him to Sieff. Finding Sieff in the bathroom, in his bath, Carlos fired one bullet at Sieff from his Tokarev 7.62mm pistol, which bounced off Sieff just between his nose and upper lip and knocked him unconscious; the gun then jammed and Carlos fled.
On 26 June 1975, Carlos's PFLP contact, Lebanon-born Michel Moukharbal, was captured and interrogated by the French domestic intelligence agency, the DST. When two unarmed agents of the DST interrogated Carlos at a Parisian house party, Moukharbal revealed Carlos's identity. Carlos then shot and killed the two agents and Moukharbal, fled the scene, and managed to escape via Brussels to Beirut.
On 21 December 1975, he led the six-person team (which included Gabriele Kröcher-Tiedemann) that attacked the meeting of OPEC leaders; they took more than 60 hostages and killed three: an Austrian policeman, an Iraqi OPEC employee and a member of the Libyan delegation. Carlos demanded that the Austrian authorities read a communiqué about the Palestinian cause on Austrian radio and television networks every two hours. To avoid the threatened execution of a hostage every 15 minutes, the Austrian government agreed and the communiqué was broadcast as demanded.
On 22 December, the government provided the PFLP and 42 hostages an airplane and flew them to Algiers, as demanded for the hostages' release. Ex-Royal Navy pilot Neville Atkinson, at that time the personal pilot for Libya's leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, flew Carlos and a number of others, including Hans-Joachim Klein, a supporter of the imprisoned Red Army Faction and a member of the Revolutionary Cells, and Gabriele Kröcher-Tiedemann, from Algiers.
Manuel Contreras, Gerhard Mertins, Sergio Arredondo and an unidentified Brazilian general traveled to Tehran in 1976 to offer a collaboration to the Shah regime to kill Carlos in exchange for a large sum of money. It's not known what actually happened in the meetings.
In September 1976, Carlos was arrested, detained in Yugoslavia, and flown to Baghdad. He chose to settle in Aden, where he tried to found his own Organization of Armed Struggle, composed of Syrian, Lebanese and German rebels. He also connected with the Stasi, East Germany's secret police. They provided him with an office and safe houses in East Berlin, a support staff of 75, and a service car, and allowed him to carry a pistol while in public.
Carlos is believed to have planned his attacks on several European targets, including the bombing of the Radio Free Europe offices in Munich in February 1981, which was part of an eventually unsuccessful hunt for Ion Mihai Pacepa ordered and financed by the Romanian government.
With conditional support from the Iraqi regime and after the death of Haddad, Carlos offered the services of his group to the PFLP and other groups. His group's first attack may have been a failed rocket attack on the Superphénix French nuclear power station on 18 January 1982.
On 16 February 1982, two of the group—Swiss terrorist Bruno Breguet and Carlos' wife Magdalena Kopp—were arrested in Paris, in a car containing explosives. Following the arrest, a letter was sent to the French embassy in The Hague demanding their immediate release. Meanwhile, Carlos unsuccessfully lobbied the French government for their release.
The Syrian government forced Carlos to remain inactive, and he was subsequently seen as a neutralized threat. In 1990, the Iraqi government approached him for work and, in September 1991, he was expelled from Syria, which had supported the American intervention against the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. After a short stay in Jordan, he was accorded protection in Sudan where he lived in Khartoum.
In 2005, the European Court of Human Rights heard a complaint from Ramírez Sánchez that his long years of solitary confinement constituted "inhuman and degrading treatment". In 2006 the court decided that Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment) had not been violated; however, Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) had been. Ramírez Sánchez was awarded €10,000 for costs and expenses, having made no claim for compensation for damage.
In May 2007, anti-terrorism judge Jean-Louis Bruguière ordered a new trial for Ramírez Sánchez on charges relating to "killings and destruction of property using explosive substances" in France in 1982 and 1983. The bombings killed eleven and injured more than 100 people.
On 20 November 2009, Chávez publicly defended Carlos, saying that he is wrongly considered to be "a bad guy" and that he believed Carlos had been unfairly convicted. Chávez also called him "one of the great fighters of the Palestine Liberation Organisation". France summoned the Venezuelan ambassador and demanded an explanation. Chávez, however, declined to retract his comments.