Echoes of Munich

Yesterday's attack was not the first time a national sports team has been targeted by terrorists. At the 1972 Munich Olympics, 11 members of the Israeli team were taken hostage and killed by members of Black September, a Palestinian militant group linked to Yasser Arafat's PLO.

The group - eight men in tracksuits and with duffel bags and AK-47 assault rifles - scaled a two-metre fence in the early hours of 5 September to gain access to the Olympic village apartment block that housed male members of the Israeli team, shooting two dead. Nine other members of the team were taken hostage; in return for their release, Black September demanded the release of more than 200 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel and safe passage to Egypt.

A rescue plan to provide the terrorists with a plane and for officers dressed as flight crew to ambush them was bungled. It was only while the gunmen and hostages boarded a bus to the flight that German officers realised there were more terrorists than expected and abandoned the ambush.

At the airport Black September suspected they had been double-crossed and in a gun battle with the German police, all nine Israelis were killed along with a policeman and five hostage-takers.

Three of the Black September group survived and were later released in a deal by the German authorities.


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Echoes of Munich in Pakistan attacks

This article was first published on guardian.co.uk at 00.01 GMT on Wednesday 4 March 2009. It appeared in the Guardian on Wednesday 4 March 2009 on p6 of the Top stories section. It was last updated at 00.06 GMT on Wednesday 4 March 2009.

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