OPEC siege

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On December 21, 1975, six militants attacked the meeting of OPEC leaders in Vienna, Austria; they took more than 60 hostages and killed three: an Austrian policeman, an Iraqi OPEC employee and a member of the Libyan delegation. The self-named "Arm of the Arab Revolution" group was led by Carlos the Jackal. The siege left three dead and several wounded.[1]


File:OPEC Siege.pdf
The path taken by the attackers inside OPEC Headquarters

Carlos the Jackal 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 requested. Vienna Police said that 96 hostages were taken during the siege.

Outside the OPEC Headquarters the attackers freed about 50 Vienna resident hostages.

On December 22, the government provided the PFLP and 42 hostages with an Austrian Airlines DC-9 which flew them to Algiers, as demanded for the hostages' release. When they arrived at Algiers airport, the local government began negotiations; five oil-ministers and 31 other hostages were released, five oil ministers were kept.

Ex-Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm pilot Neville Atkinson, at that time the personal pilot for Libya's leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, flew them, including Hans-Joachim Klein, a supporter of the imprisoned Baader-Meinhof group and a member of the Revolutionary Cells, and Gabriele Kröcher-Tiedemann, from Algiers to Tripoli, where some hostages were freed. Finally, they returned to Algiers where the last hostages were freed and some of the attackers were granted asylum.


On December 21, 1975, Saudi Arabian Minister of Petroleum Ahmed Zaki Yamani and the other oil ministers of the members of OPEC were taken hostage in Vienna, Austria, where the ministers were attending a meeting at the OPEC headquarters. The hostage attack was orchestrated by a six-person team led by Venezuelan terrorist Carlos the Jackal (which included Gabriele Kröcher-Tiedemann and Hans-Joachim Klein). The self-named "Arm of the Arab Revolution" group called for the liberation of Palestine. Carlos planned to take over the conference by force and kidnap all eleven oil ministers in attendance and hold them for ransom, with the exception of Ahmed Zaki Yamani and Iran's Jamshid Amuzegar, who were to be executed.

Carlos led his team past two police officers in the building's lobby and up to the first floor, where a police officer, an Iraqi plain clothes security guard and a young Libyan economist were shot dead.

As Carlos entered the conference room and fired shots into the ceiling, the delegates ducked under the table. The terrorists searched for Ahmed Zaki Yamani and then divided the sixty-three hostages into groups. Delegates of friendly countries were moved toward the door, 'neutrals' were placed in the centre of the room and the 'enemies' were placed along the back wall, next to a stack of explosives. This last group included those from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar and the UAE. Carlos demanded that a bus be provided to take his group and the hostages to the airport, where a DC-9 airplane and crew would be waiting. In the meantime, Carlos briefed Yamani on his plan to eventually fly to Aden, where Yamani and Amuzegar would be killed. During the attack Hans-Joachim Klein was shot and injured; however, Carlos refused to leave him behind and demanded medical assistance. Kurdish-born doctor Wiriya Rawenduzy, who was living and working in Vienna, volunteered to accompany the terrorists on board in exchange for the hostages' safe release upon arrival.[2]

The bus was provided the following morning at 6:40 as requested and 42 hostages were boarded and taken to the airport. The group was airborne just after 9:00, with explosives placed under Yamani's seat. The plane first stopped in Algiers, where Carlos left the plane to meet with the Algierian Foreign minister. All 30 non-Arab hostages were released, excluding Amuzegar.

The refueled plane left for Tripoli, where there was trouble in acquiring another plane as had been planned. Carlos decided to instead return to Algiers and change to a Boeing 707, a plane large enough to fly to Baghdad nonstop. Ten more hostages were released before leaving.

With only ten hostages remaining, the Boeing 707 left for Algiers and arrived at 3:40 a.m. After leaving the plane to meet with the Algerians, Carlos talked with his colleagues in the front cabin of the plane and then told Yamani and Amuzegar that they would be released at mid-day. Carlos was then called from the plane a second time and returned after two hours.

At this second meeting it is believed that Carlos held a phone conversation with Algerian President Houari Boumédienne, who informed Carlos that the oil ministers' deaths would result in an attack on the plane. Yamani's biography[citation needed] suggests that the Algerians had used a covert listening device on the front of the aircraft to overhear the earlier conversation between the terrorists, and found that Carlos had in fact still planned to murder the two oil ministers. Boumédienne must also have offered Carlos asylum at this time and possibly financial compensation for failing to complete his assignment.

On returning to the plane Carlos stood before Yamani and Amuzegar and expressed his regret at not being able to murder them. He then told the hostages that he and his comrades would leave the plane, after which they would all be free. After waiting for the terrorists to leave, Yamani and the other nine hostages followed and were taken to the airport by Algerian Foreign Minister Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The terrorists were present in the next lounge and Khalid, the Palestinian, asked to speak to Yamani. As his hand reached for his coat, Khalid was surrounded by guards and a gun was found concealed in a holster.


In the years following the OPEC raid, Bassam Abu Sharif and Klein claimed that Carlos had received a large sum of money in exchange for the safe release of the Arab hostages and had kept it for his personal use. There is still some uncertainty regarding the amount that changed hands but it is believed to have been between US$20 million and US$50 million. The source of the money is also uncertain but, according to Klein, it was from "an Arab president." Carlos later told his lawyers that the money was paid by the Saudis on behalf of the Iranians and was "diverted en route and lost by the Revolution".[3][4]



The communiqué demanded the Arab world wage a "total liberation war". It was written in French.


During the gunfight, an Austrian police detective, an Iraqi security officer and the Libyan delegate Yusuf al-Azmarly were killed.

In popular culture


The 1997 film The Assignment depicts the OPEC siege early on in the film.

The 2010 Olivier Assayas-directed series Carlos documented the life of Ramírez Sánchez. The film won a Golden Globe Award for Best Miniseries or Television Movie. Carlos was played by the Venezuelan actor Édgar Ramírez.


  1. "OPEC raid 1975". Wien-Vienna.com. Retrieved February 15, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Weiss, Ingrid (2004). Face to Face with Terror: From the Vienna OPEC Attack to the Terrorism of Today. Ibera. ISBN 978-3850522199.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Bellamy, Patrick. "Carlos the Jackal: Trail of Terror". truTV. Archived from the original on January 7, 2012. Retrieved January 7, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Follain, John (1998). Jackal: The Complete Story of the Legendary Terrorist, Carlos the Jackal. Arcade Publishing. p. 102. ISBN 978-1559704663.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Blumenau, Bernhard (2014). The United Nations and Terrorism: Germany, Multilateralism, and Antiterrorism Efforts in the 1970s. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-137-39196-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>