Extracts of Carlos - Portrait of a terrorist
The OPEC Raid. (From Chapter Ten)
Edith Heller, the receptionist, was trying to stay awake. The Christmas party
season was starting and the tall ash blonde had been up late on Saturday night.
A light shone on the small telephone switchboard to the right of her desk.
She looked away from the door for a second as shed answered the call. When
back two young men were standing there. One wore a basque beret and a leather
jacket, the other a big fur hat. The one in the leather jacket held a sub-machine-gun
and the other a pistol. This one asked: Wheres the conference room? The
receptionist had a brief impression of Tichler [Inspector Anton Tichler, an
Arabic speaking member of the State Police Bureau, Austrias security
service.] standing by the lifts with his hands up. Then they started
Half-a-dozen people, mostly civil servants attached to the various delegations,
were sitting or standing in the reception area. One of them, an Algerian, motioned
the mesmerised Heller, still staring at the firing gunmen, to get down. She did,
taking the telephone off the desk with her left hand as she went. Then, with
commendable courage, she crouched on the floor behind her desk and dialled the
police. This is OPEC. Theyre shooting all over the place, she
Who are you? asked an incredulous voice.
OPEC! OPEC! This is OPEC. The gunfire was loud. She had to scream
Her raised voice attracted the attention of one of the terrorists. He leaned
over the desk, pistol in hand, pointed at Hellers head then shifted his
aim slightly and fired. The bullet passed straight through the telephone into
the floor. He then put another shot through the switchboard receiver and into
the board itself. A horrified Iranian who had watched the shooting from behind
his chair was convinced that the receptionist was dead. Then, very slowly, she
got up, rubbing her ears which were ringing from the shots.
Two people had already died. Anton Tichler, the cultured policeman, was the first
to be killed. The Austrian police teach a judo hold whereby a strong and healthy
man, if he is quick and brave enough, might be able to disarm somebody pointing
a rifle or sub-machine-gun at them. For a man of sixty, Tichler didnt do
so badly. He seized hold of the barrel of Carloss machine-pistol and almost
succeeded in wrenching it from his grasp before the surprised terrorist threw
him off and ran on into the reception room.
Tichler, perhaps realising by now that he was badly outnumbered, then tried to
get away by entering a lift which was already occupied by Frau Hetter Czeczelitz,
one of the catering women who pushed coffee-trollies around the building. Frau
Czeczelitz was facing the policeman as he entered when the young female terrorist,
who had seen his tussle with Carlos, came up behind him and asked in English, Are
you a policeman? Tichler admitted that he was and began to raise his hands.
As he did so, Kröcher-Tiedemann took careful aim and, from a distance of
about four feet, shot him in the back of the neck just below the hairline. The
policeman slumped down into the lift, dying. Her next move was to drag the terrified
Frau Czeczelitz out of the lift and send her darting under Edith Hellers
desk where she discovered the receptionist and another of the coffee ladies.
Afterwards, they could not work out how they found the room. Then, in the manner
of the worst B movies, Kröcher-Tiedemann pushed the policemans body
further into the lift and sent it down to the ground floor where the doors opened
to reveal the inspector lying in a pool of his own blood. His gun, unfired, was
still in its holster.
The next to die was the Iraqi oil ministers bodyguard Ali Hassan Saeed
Al Khafari, a tall twenty-seven-year-old who had married in Baghdad three months
before. The Iraqi pulled a gun and is thought to have fired several shots before
closing in on the small young woman with the big automatic in her fist who had
just shot Tichler. Whether his pistol was empty or jammed, or as an aide to the
Iraqi chargé subsequently proposed some inbred Arab chivalry prevented
him firing at a woman, is unclear. But he now started grappling with the girl,
holding her gun arm to disarm her. In the process he tore her grey, fur-lined
jacket down the left side. When she realised Hassan was getting the better of
her Kröcher-Tiedemann played her trump card and with her left hand produced
the second pistol from her belt and put a bullet through the Iraqis elbow
and into his face. [In 1990 a court in Cologne acquitted Gabriele Kröcher-Tiedemann
of murder after the prosecutions
key witnessed declined to testify.]
In the statisticians offices along the corridor Suhail Nasser, a Lebanese
who worked for the Kuwaiti delegation, had managed to get a telephone call through
to his sister in Beirut - not always easy at the height of the Lebanese civil
war. Slowly he became aware that he could hear shooting. What are those
asked. After all, he was in Vienna four days before Christmas. She was
in war torn Beirut.
Oh its probably a funeral, said his sister, after eight months
of street fighting already the blasé Beiruti. Then there was another burst
and Nasser said he had to go and put the receiver down. Once he had stepped out
of the room any lingering hopes that the shots had been fired by one of the various
rabbles who had taken over his home town were soon dispelled. The corridor was
in semidarkness and the air smelt of gunsmoke. The doors of the conference chamber
were slightly ajar. He walked towards them. As he did so two things happened
at once. a young man wearing a beret and carrying a sub-machine gun across his
chest came out of the conference room. at the same time the door to the mens
lavatory opened and out stepped Yousef Ismirli, a stocky member of the Libyan
delegation whose wife, by whom he had two children, was an American.
Ismirli was a strong looking man and I think hed probably had some
military training, recalled Nasser. Certainly, he did not lack nerve. The
Libyan took one look At the gunman and immediately tried to pull the weapon away
from him. It began to dawn on Nasser what was happening. Fighting had broken
out, he thought, between the bodyguards who accompanied all the Arab delegations.
Over the last few days there had been particularly bad feeling between the Iraqis
and the Algerians because the Iraqis had undercut the agreed price in a deal
with the French.
I went up to them, said Nasser. I said something like, Hey
stop it fellows! Carlos kicked me. He had obviously been well trained and
it was a very hard kick in
the knee. I felt it for months afterwards.
Then Ismirli gave a final tug and the Beretta was in his hands. As he did so
Nasser saw another gunman wearing a ski-mask and also carrying a machine-pistol
come out of the conference room. Then I realised this fight had nothing
to do with bodyguards. I wondered if they were Israelis. I yelled at the Libyan, Leave
him! Here come another one. Run! I saw Carlos go under his coat and pull
out another gun, a pistol. I started running back down the corridor. The Libyan
was right behind me. I went into one of the rooms on m y right and slammed the
door. I didnt go right into the room. I pressed myself against the wall
next to the door. There were shots outside and then he started firing through
the door. I think he was probably frightened to come in because he thought I
was one of the bodyguards with the delegations and armed. One of these bullets
ricocheted and hit me in the right arm. It felt like a red hot poker. Then it
became very quiet. I waited
a few minutes and opened the door.
Outside, face down in the corridor, lay the body of Yousef Ismirli, the man who
had wrestled Carloss main weapon away from and might easily have riddled
him with it had he not been distracted by Nassers urgent Run! The
Lebanese noticed there was a lot of blood coming from the back of Ismirlis
neck, as if he had been given the coup de grace there.