Abu Nidal was a terrorist mercenary who was once linked to the most dangerous terrorist organization in existence.

In this article, we investigate more about the man as he traversed the Middle East political landscape.

Who is Abu Nidal?

Born Sabri Khalil al-Banna in 1937, Abu Nidal was the Fatah Revolutionary Council’s militant leader, known more as the Abū Niḍāl Organization (ANO). The Palestinian organization engaged in numerous acts of terrorism beginning in the 1970s, making them feared worldwide.

Abu Nidal’s family fled Palestine in 1948 following the creation of Israel. In the following years, he lived in Saudi Arabia and Jordan. In the late 1960s, he joined Yāsir ʿArafāt’s guerrilla group, Fatah, part of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). When Fatah asked him to choose a nom de guerre, he chose Abu Nidal after his son, Nidal. It signifies Father of Struggle.

He left the group in 1973 because he disagreed with members who were willing to pursue a diplomatic solution to the Palestinian question. He created a new separate organization, which targeted Palestinians whose political views differed from his own.

At a 1974 tribunal, the PLO condemned Abu Nidal as an extremist, sentencing him to death in absentia. Expelled from numerous countries, Abu Nidal was forced to move around to avoid his enemy. He eventually settled in Baghdad, where he died in 2002 while in the custody of Iraqi authorities.

– Early Childhood

Sabri Khalil al-Banna was born to a prosperous family in the town of Jaffa in 1937. His father was a wealthy orange merchant but was often cruel to his large family.

In his old age, he married his second wife and al-Banna’s mother, a 16-year-old Alawite maid. Sabri was his twelfth child. Repulsed by her impoverished background, the family rejected the young Sabrun. Upon his father’s death in 1945, his mother was removed from the family home.

In 1948 they were forced to flee their home due to the First Arab-Israeli war. They ended up living in poor conditions at a Gaza refuge camp. al-Banna was often neglected as a child, living as an impoverished refugee. This upbringing is one of the reasons he became bitter and vengeful.

As a teenager, he became attracted to Ba’athism ideology and moved to Egypt, where he studied engineering. He moved to the Gulf before he could complete his studies. He later lived in Riyadh, where he became relatively successful in business. It was during this period he became more interested in politics.

– The Abu Nida Organization (ANO)

The Abu Nidal Organization (ANO) is a secular international terrorist group. Over the years, they received arms support from Libya, Iraq, and Syria. They mounted terrorist operations in over twenty countries, killing and injuring hundreds.

ANO is a terrorist organization known for its deadly attacks on Western, Palestinian, and Israeli citizens. They aimed to derail diplomatic relations between the PLO and the West while supporting the destruction of Israel.

The group wanted the state of Israel to be eliminated, ideally through an Arab revolution. They supported an armed struggle against Israel and opposed any Arab-Israeli peace negotiations. The group has also served as a mercenary terrorist force for radical Arab regimes.

In the mid-1980s, ANO was considered the world’s most dangerous terrorist organization but now is mostly inactive.

– Cause of Death

Abdul was reported dead from a gunshot wound in Iraq in 2002. Abu Nidal was sentenced to death in absentia by the PLO in 1974 for attacks against fellow Palestinians. He was convicted once more in 2001 by Jordan for the 1994 assassination of a Jordanian diplomat in Beirut.

On August 19, 2002, the Palestinian newspaper al-Ayyam reported that Abu Nidal had died three days earlier of multiple gunshot wounds at his home in Baghdad. Two days later, Iraq’s chief of intelligence released images of his body to the press.

According to the medical report released, he died after shooting himself in the mouth. The Iraqi officials had arrived at Abu Nidal’s home to arrest him on suspicions of conspiring with foreign agents. After saying he needed to change his clothing, he went to his bedroom and shot himself in the mouth. It was reported that he died eight hours later in hospital.

Other reports by Jane’s Information Group say that Iraqi intelligence raided his house to find classified documents in his home. A fight broke out between Abu Nidal’s men and the intelligence officers. During the clash, Nidal was killed. Palestinian sources claim that he was shot several times.

In 2008 Robert Fisk obtained a report written in September 2002. The document claimed that Nidal had been interrogated at home. He was suspected of working as a spy for Egypt and Kuwait. The report also states that he had indirectly been spying for the United Nations and asked by the Kuwaitis to find links between Iraq and Al-Qaeda. Before he could be removed from his home, he shot himself in his bedroom.

The Fatah Revolutionary Council

The Fatah Revolutionary Council is a secular movement founded in Kuwait in the late 1950s. Fatah is a reverse acronym for Harakat al-Tahrir al-Filistiniya, which translates as the Palestinian National Liberation Movement in Arabic. The word Fatah means to conquer in Arabic.

Fatah was founded by diaspora Palestinians after the ethnic cleansing of the country by the Zionist movement, which aimed to create a modern Jewish state in historic Palestine. Fatah’s founders notably included Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas.

The group’s armed struggle against Israeli occupation started in 1965, usually carried out in Lebanon and Jordan. After the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Fatah became the dominant party in the PLO.

In the 1970s and 1980s, after Jordan and Lebanon expelled them, the Council changed its approach and negotiated with Israel. Fatah was forced to take the diplomatic route. Fatah holds a significant number of seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council. Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas continues to serve as President of the Palestinian Authority.

Palestine Liberation Organization

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is an umbrella political organization that represents the world’s Palestinians. They claim to protect those who lived in mandated Palestine before creating the State of Israel in 1948.

The Palestine Liberation Organization was formed in 1964 to centralize different Palestinian groups that formally operated as clandestine resistance movements. The organization came into prominence after the Six-Day War of June 1967.

The group engaged in a protracted guerrilla war against Israel during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s before entering peace negotiations in the 1990s.

Terrorist Activities

Most of his group’s attacks targeted Israelis, members of the PLO, and Arab government representatives. However, no significant attacks had been attributed to the group since Nidal’s death.

Some of the incidents Abu Nidal was known to participate in include:

  • The 1994 assassination of the senior Jordanian diplomat Naeb Imran Maaytah in Beirut.
  • The January 1991 assassination of PLO’s second-in-command in Tunis.
  • The September 1986 shooting at the Neve Shalom synagogue in Istanbul killed twenty-two people.
  • The December 1985 attempted hijacking of a Pakistani Pan Am flight in Karachi.
  • The December 1985 attacks on U.S. and Israeli airport counters in Rome and Vienna killed eighteen people and injured 111.
  • The June 1982 attempt to assassinate Israeli ambassador Shlomo Argov in London.

ANO Support: Conspiring Countries

Syria, Iraq, and Libya have all supported the Abu Nidal Organization. These countries used ANO as guns for hire and provided them military training, logistical support, and funded their missions.

While representing Fatah in Baghdad, Nidal began working with Iraqi intelligence. He formed his organization with Iraq’s help.

In 1983, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein expelled Abu Nidal and his group to gain U.S. military support for Iraq’s 1980s war with Iran. Once the war ended, Iraq resumed its support of Abu Nidal.

After his organization was expelled from Iraq, it moved to Syria, where it worked to undermine Jordan and Israeli peace plans. Syria expelled the Abu Nidal Organization in 1987, so Libya supported them in setting up their country.

In 1999, in an attempt to eliminate international sanctions, Libya kicked out the Abu Nidal Organization. Since 1999, the group’s access to resources is unclear.

Abu Nidal’s Philosophy

Abu Nidal has never stood for a single cause other than the pursuit of terror. He broke away from the Fatah movement in the early 1970s because he disliked the moderate line they were taking towards King Hussein and the Israeli state. He believed the only resolution was death.

Much of his notoriety stems from the attacks on the West. However, 70% of his outrages were carried out against fellow Arabs. These attacks were either due to personal grievances or at the request of government sponsorships.

Israel Vs Palestine

Before Israel became a nation, most people living in the region were Palestinians, and the area was known as Palestine. On May 14, 1948, Israel officially declared a state, marking the first Jewish state in over 2,000 years.

Just one day later, war broke out between Israel and Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and Lebanon. At the end of this conflict, known as the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Egypt was handed control of the Gaza Strip. In the aftermath, it’s thought that over 700,000 Palestinians were forced to flee their homes in the newly formed Jewish Israel.

What Is The Ba’ath Movement?

Ba’ath is an Arab social and political movement that eventually took power in Syria and Iraq. Sabri al Banna became involved with the Baʾath movement in his teens. His involvement in this group started his interest in politics and what started on his path to terrorism.

The Baʾath movement was founded in Damascus in the 1940s. The movement wanted a rebirth of a united Arab nation (Ba’ath means rebirth in Arabic). A central belief of the Baʾath movement was to eliminate external influences. Officially, the party also stood for uniting the separate Arab states, many of which were established by Britain and France post World War I.

Ba’ath’s believers seized control of the Syrian government in 1958. Disputes between the followers sent some believers into exile in Iraq. This set up a long rivalry between Syrian and Iraqi followers of the movement. One of the few beliefs they agreed with is the concept of a single and united Arab nation. They also all rejected any peace treaties that recognized Israel’s right to exist.

Ba’athists in Syria started an organization called al-Sa’iqa in 1968. It used terrorist tactics to fight for Palestinian rights. The Iraqi Ba’athists set up the Arab Liberation Front a year later. This idea of a single Arab nation explains how Abu Nidal went to work with Syria and Iraq.

Abu Nidal’s history with Israel led to him joining terrorist organizations and participating in acts of terrorism.

Let’s breakdown some of the topics we have covered in this article.

  • Abu Nidal was the Fatah Revolutionary Council’s militant leader, more commonly known as the Abū Niḍāl Organization (ANO).
  • Sabri Khalil al-Banna is the birth name of Abu Nidal.
  • He was forced to flee Palestine during the Arab-Israeli war.
  • The Abu Nidal Organization is a secular international terrorist group that Libya, Iraq, and Syria have sponsored.
  • Abu Nidal wants the state of Israel to be eliminated.
  • He died in 2002 from a gunshot wound.

More famously known as Abu Nidal, Sabri al-Banna was considered the most dangerous terrorist in the world. He was concerned with ensuring Palestine did not sign peace agreements with Israel and wished to eliminate the country. He later became a gun for hire, slowly becoming unwelcome in most Arab countries.

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