A Palestinian terrorist group created after the expulsion of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) from Jordan in September 1970 and considered an exceptionally ruthless adversary, whose membership was the subject of a lengthy campaign waged by the Mossad following a massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The then prime minister of Israel, Golda Meir, chaired a secret cabinet subcommittee, known as Committee-X, which in September 1972 authorized the Mossad to pursue and assassinate the terrorists responsible for murdering members of the Olympic team.
Over the months that followed, eight members of the Black September leadership died. In mid-October, Wael Zwaiter was hit by 12 bullets fired at close range in the entrance hall of his apartment building in Rome; in December PLO representative Mahmoud Hamshari was killed in Paris by an ingenious bomb that detonated inside his telephone; in January 1973 Al-Fatah’s Hussein Abad al-Chir died in an explosion under his bed in his room at the Olympic Hotel in Nicosia, Cyprus; in April, Dr. Basil Raoud Kubaisi was shot in a Paris street; three days later Kamal Nasser, Mahmoud Yussuf Najjer, and Kamal Adwan were assassinated separately in their three Beirut apartments by 30 commandos who had slipped ashore from six darkened Zodiac inflatables; three days after that raid, Ziad Muchassi was killed by a bomb in his Athens hotel room; and finally, in July 1974, a Mossad team was arrested in Norway after a Moroccan waiter had been shot dead in Lillehammer in front of his pregnant wife.
Until this last, disastrous shooting, when an entirely innocent Arab, Ahmed Bouchiki, was gunned down in a quiet residential street, nobody publicly had linked the killings. But the .22 Beretta used to kill Bouchiki with 14 bullets was linked by ballistics to the weapon that had killed Zwaiter in Paris and Kubaisi in Rome. Although the Norwegian Overaaksingstejeste estimated that at least 11 Israeli agents had participated in the surveillance on Bouchiki, which had incorrectly identified him as Ali Hassan Salameh, only seven were arrested. One, Yigal Eyal, who was listed at the embassy as a security guard, claimed diplomatic immunity and was expelled; Michael Dorf, the communications expert, was acquitted; and the other five (Zwi Steinberg, Marianne Gladnikoff, Sylvia Raphael, Dan Arbel, and Abraham Geimer) were convicted of murder and imprisoned.
The last chapter in this extraordinary chronology was the death in a massive car bomb in Beirut of Ali Hassan Salameh in January 1979. Sometimes known as “the Red Prince,” Salameh had been Black September’s chief planner, and he was thought to have masterminded the Munich attack.