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Abu Nidal

Born: 1937 AD
Died: 2002 AD
Nationality: Palestinian
Categories: Political Leader, Terrorist

1937 – Abu Nidal was born in May 1937 in the port of Jaffa, now part of Tel Aviv, on the Mediterranean coast of what was then the British Mandate of Palestine.

1945 – However, when Khalil died in 1945, when Abu Nidal was seven years old, the family turned his mother out of the house. The older brothers, more devout Muslims than the father had been, took Abu Nidal out of the mission school and enrolled him in a Muslim school in Jerusalem, now known as al-Umaria, at the time one of the most prestigious private schools in the country. He attended the school for about two years.

1947 – When the Arabs rejected the November 29, 1947 United Nations partition plan – which aimed to partition Palestine into two states, one Jewish, one Arab – war broke out between the Palestinian-Arab and Jewish militias, and Jaffa found itself under siege. Booby-trapped cars were exploding in the center of Jaffa and there were food shortages. The al-Banna family had had good relations with the Jewish community.

1955 – They decided to move to Nablus in the West Bank, then ruled by Jordan, where Abu Nidal spent his teenage years. He completed elementary school and graduated from high school in 1955. He applied to study engineering at Cairo University, but returned to Nablus after two years without a degree. He joined the Arab nationalist Ba’ath party when he was 18, but King Hussein of Jordan closed the party down in 1957. Abu Nidal made his way to Saudi Arabia, where in 1960 he set himself up as a painter and electrician in Riyadh, according to Seale, or Jedda, according to Melman, and later went on to work as a casual laborer for Aramco.

1962 – Abu Nidal remained very close to his mother and returned to Nablus from Saudi Arabia every year to visit her. During one of those visits in 1962, he met his future wife, Hiyam al-Bitar, whose family had also fled from Jaffa. They had a son, Nidal, and two daughters, Bisan and Na’ifa. In Saudi Arabia, he helped found a small group of young Palestinians who called themselves the Palestine Secret Organization. His political activism and vocal decunciation of Israel drew the attention of his employer, Aramco, which fired him, and then the Saudi government, which imprisoned, tortured, and expelled him as an unwelcome radical. He returned to Nablus with his wife and young family, and it was around this time that he joined Yasser Arafat’s Fatah faction of the PLO, although the exact timing and circumstances are unknown.

1967 – He moved to Amman, Jordan, setting up a trading company called Impex, and joining the Fatah underground, where he was asked to choose a nom de guerre. He chose Abu Nidal, in part after his son, Nidal, a custom in the Arab world, but also because the name means "father of the struggle." Impex soon became a front for Fatah activities, serving as a meeting place for members and as a conduit for funds with which to pay them. This was to become a hallmark of Abu Nidal’s business career. Companies controlled by the ANO served to make him a rich man by engaging in legitimate business deals, while at the same time acting as a cover for his political violence and his multi-million-dollar arms deals, mercenary activities, and protection rackets.

1968-1970 – Seeing his talent for organization, Abu Iyad appointed him in 1968 as the Fatah representative in Khartoum, Sudan, then to the same position in Baghdad in July 1970, just two months before Black September, when King Hussein’s army drove the fedayeen out of Jordan, with the loss of between 5,000 and 10,000 Palestinian lives in just ten days. Abu Nidal’s absence from Jordan during this period, where it was clear that Hussein might be about to act against the Palestinians, raised the suspicion within the movement that his requests for posts to Sudan and Iraq had been intended only to save his own skin.

1971-1972 – Shortly after King Hussein expelled the fedayeen, Abu Nidal began broadcasting criticism of the PLO over Voice of Palestine, the PLO’s own radio station in Iraq, accusing them of cowardice for having agreed to a ceasefire with Hussein, and during Fatah’s Third Congress in Damascus in 1971, Abu Nidal emerged as the leader of a leftist alliance against Arafat. Together with Abu Daoud (one of Fatah’s most ruthless commanders, who was later involved in the 1972 Black September kidnapping and killing of 11 Israeli athletes at the Olympic Village in Munich) and Palestinian intellectual Naji Allush, Abu Nidal called for Arafat to be overthrown as an enemy of the Palestinian people, and demanded more democracy within Fatah, as well as violent revenge against King Hussein.

1973 – Abu Nidal’s first operation took place on September 5, 1973, when five gunmen, using the name Al-Iqab (The Punishment), seized the Saudi embassy in Paris, taking 11 hostages and threatening to blow up the building if Abu Dawud was not released from jail in Jordan, where he had been arrested in February 1973 for an attempt on the King’s life. After a three-day siege and the intervention of the PLO, the gunmen surrendered, though not before the Kuwaiti government had agreed to pay King Hussein $12 million in exchange for Abu Dawud. Two months later, just after the October 1973 Yom Kippur War, during discussions about convening a peace conference in Geneva, the ANO hijacked a KLM airliner, using the name the Arab Nationalist Youth Organization. The operation was intended to send a signal to Fatah not to send representatives to any peace conference.

1974 – Arafat expelled Abu Nidal from Fatah in March 1974, and the rift between the two groups, and the two men, was complete.

1976-1981 – Abu Nidal originally chose the name Black June for the group, in order to mark his disapproval of the 1976 Syrian intervention in Lebanon in support of the Christians, but changed it to Fatah-Revolutionary Council when he switched bases from Iraq to Syria in 1981.

1987 – Abu Nidal had turned the full force of his terror tactics inwards on the ANO itself. Members were tortured until they confessed to betrayal and disloyalty. According to recruits who were able to escape, victims were buried alive, fed through a tube forced into their mouths, then finally killed by a bullet fired down the tube. Some had their genitals placed in skillets of boiling-hot oil. There were several mass purges. During one night in November 1987, 170 members were tied up, blindfolded, machine-gunned, and buried in a mass grave. Another 160 met the same fate in Libya shortly afterwards.  In August 1987, Abu Nidal tried again, this time using an unwitting bomb mule to carry a bomb on board a flight from Belgrade, airline unknown, but the bomb failed to explode.

1988 – Allegedly angered by this failure, Senussi told Abu Nidal to supply a bomb and Libyan intelligence would arrange for it to be placed on a flight. The flight that was chosen, according to Abu Bakr, was Pan Am Flight 103, the scheduled Pan Am service between Frankfurt and New York via London. On December 21, 1988, it exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, when a bomb was detonated in its forward cargo hold, killing all 259 passengers and crew, and 11 people in Lockerbie.

2002 – On August 19, 2002, al-Ayyam, the official newspaper of the Palestinian Authority, reported that Abu Nidal had died three days August 16, earlier of multiple gunshot wounds in his home in the wealthy al-Masbah neighborhood of al-Jadriyah, Baghdad, where the villa he lived in was owned by the Mukhabarat, or Iraqi secret service. He was a Palestinian political leader and the founder of Fatah – the Revolutionary Council (Fatah al-Majles al-Thawry), more commonly known as the Abu Nidal Organization (ANO).