10 of the Deadliest and Strangest Terror Groups of the 1970s

Black September, taking no prisoners. CNN

Black September

The Black September organization was rather edgier, and it was involved in a struggle where the stakes were a great deal higher. Again, anyone in their forties or fifties will remember the killing of eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, and this was probably the signature action of the Black September group. One of the key demands during this incident was the release from prison of Ulrike Meinhof and Andreas Baader, which as something the German authorities had absolutely no intention of doing, and after a bungled rescue attempt, all the hostages were killed.

Black September was named after a brief war that in September 1970 took place in Jordan between the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Jordanian army. The background to this was the wider Arab-Israeli conflict. In the aftermath of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the Palestinian refugee crisis was created as a great many Palestinians took refuge in Jordan. Jordan, led by the Hashemite Dynasty, was seen as collaborationist and uncommitted to Arab unity, and the PLO, sensing an opportunity, tried by various means to take over the country. King Hussain of Jordan, pressed into a corner, reacted to oust the PLO from Jordanian territory, sparking a brief war that did indeed see the PLO pushed out of Jordan and into Lebanon.

From this emerged an extreme faction of the PLO, calling itself Black September. At the time, the PLO was not as militant and aggressive as it would later become, and Black September, which existed for only three years, in many respects was the pathfinder in that direction. Besides the Munich Massacre, numerous attempts were made on the life of King Hussein of Jordan, and it was the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the immediate progenitor of Black September, that set the trend of Hijacking civilian aircraft. Three airliners were hijacked in a coordinated operation and flown to an abandoned airfield in Jordan, where they were dramatically blown up in front of the international press

Numerous other less dramatic, but nonetheless high profile attacks followed, but the leadership and cell structure of the organization was steadily undermined by a determined Israeli intelligence operation, ‘Operation Wrath of God’. No real effort was made to arrest anyone, and typically members and even suspected members were assassinated by Israeli agents. Before long the organization effectively ceased to exist, and even ex-members were hunted down and dealt with by the Israelis.

The last Black September operation was an attack in the passenger lounge of Ellinikon International Airport in Greece, killing three and wounding fifty-five.