Dictionary of Terrorism

By John Richard Thackrah | Go to book overview

C

Carlos (Ilyich Ramirez Sanchez)

b. 1949

Carlos, real name Ilyich Ramirez Sanchez, is a Venezuelen assassin, who has been described as the world's first truly transitional terrorist (or autonomous non-state actor) and millionaire. He spent some time at the Lumumba University in Moscow (used as a selection course for Third World students chosen for training as leaders of 'liberation armies'), before being expelled. However, he maintained close connections with the KGB, and with the German Baader-Meinhof Group. The exposure of Carlos and the international ramifications of his network convinced many people throughout the world that the upsurge of bombing and assassination and the taking of hostages for political gain was no ephemeral affair, and no short-term aberration. In the early-1970s he operated in London on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. A series of errors, due to misrouting of information, prevented his arrest in London and enabled him to carry out his spectacular series of terrorist crimes, culminating in the kidnapping of OPEC oil ministers in Vienna in 1975. He is rumoured to have received a bonus from Gadaffi of nearly $2,000,000 for this operation, and other reports suggest that he took a cut of the $5,000,000 ransom paid by Saudi Arabia and Iran for the release of their ministers. Carlos has received support or approval, either covertly or overtly, from many groups, individuals, organisations and governments. He regularly operated out of France and became the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine's chief hitman there. He was dubbed the superstar of violence, and married a woman terrorist Magdalena Kaupp. Reputedly he now runs the Palestinian terrorist organisation known as the International Faction of Revolutionary Cells. It is derived from the German Revolutionary Cell organisation that was divided into two sometimes competing sections, one of which operated inside Germany and the other internationally. Ultimately, Carlos's future lies in receiving finance and support for these terrorist ventures.

In 1994 Carlos was finally apprehended by the French secret service in Khartoum in the Sudan, and in 1997, he was tried and convicted in France for his terrorist attacks. He alleged at his trial that he was driven to violent activity due to repressive states and an unresponsive internal order. He was a vain individual who craved publicity and attention, yet always stated that he was a normal family man. There is no evidence that Carlos would have sanctioned or participated in mega-terror attacks such as September 11. Carlos in his younger days saw himself as lean, hungry and unspoiled by the temptations of high living (as perhaps many other 'terrorists' see themselves) but when the former playboy grew fat and spent much of his time in nightclubs, his terrorist days were over.

He has been described as a peripatetic and an individual in his actions and has become one of the world's first transnational terrorists. He spent much of his latter days as an active terrorist in Eastern Europe working with local secret services against political enemies. Carlos moved to Damascus, Yemen and eventually ended in the Sudan, where a financial deal was done with France for his arrest.

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