Abu Nidal

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Abu Nidal (Arabic: أبو نضال) (May 1937 – August 16, 2002), born Sabri Khalil al-Banna (Arabic: صبري خليل البنا), was the founder of Fatah–The Revolutionary Council (Arabic: فتح المجلس الثوري), a militant Palestinian group more commonly known as the Abu Nidal Organization (ANO).[1] At the height of his power in the 1970s and 1980s, Abu Nidal, or "father of [the] struggle," was widely regarded as the most ruthless of the Palestinian political leaders.[2] He told Der Spiegel in a rare interview in 1985: "I am the evil spirit which moves around only at night causing ... nightmares."[3]

Part of the secular, left-wing, Palestinian rejectionist front, so called because they reject proposals for a peaceful settlement with Israel, the ANO was formed after a split in 1974 between Abu Nidal and Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction within the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Setting himself up as a freelance contractor, Abu Nidal is believed to have ordered attacks in 20 countries, killing or injuring over 900 people.[4] The group's most notorious attacks were on the El Al ticket counters at Rome and Vienna airports in December 1985, when Arab gunmen high on amphetamines opened fire on passengers in simultaneous shootings, killing 18 and wounding 120. Patrick Seale, Abu Nidal's biographer, wrote of the attacks that their "random cruelty marked them as typical Abu Nidal operations."[5]

Abu Nidal died of between one and four gunshot wounds in Baghdad in August 2002. Palestinian sources believe he was killed on the orders of Saddam Hussein, but the Iraqi government insisted he had committed suicide.[6] The Guardian wrote on the news of his death: "He was the patriot turned psychopath. He served only himself, only the warped personal drives that pushed him into hideous crime. He was the ultimate mercenary."[7]

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