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This Day in History: The ‘Jackal’ attacks OPEC
On this day in 1975, in Vienna, Austria, Carlos the Jackal leads a raid on a meeting of oil ministers from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). German and Arab terrorists stormed in with machine guns, killed three people, and took 63 people hostage, including 11 OPEC ministers.
Calling his group the “Arm of the Arab Revolution,” Carlos demanded that an anti-Israeli political statement be broadcast over radio, and that a bus and jet be provided for the terrorists and their hostages. Austrian authorities complied, and all the hostages were released in Algeria unharmed. OPEC did not hold another summit for 25 years.
In 1949, Ilich Ramírez Sánchez was born the son of a millionaire Marxist lawyer in Caracas, Venezuela, and attended Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow, where he became involved with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. During the 1970s and early 1980s, he acted as a freelance terrorist for various Arab groups and is suspected to have killed as many as 80 people in a chain of bombings, hijackings, and assassinations.
Nearly apprehended on several occasions, he managed to evade international authorities until 1994, when French agents captured him hiding in the Sudan. Secretly extradited to France, he was sent to a French prison, where he lived for three years before being put on trial in 1997 for the 1975 Paris murders of two French counterintelligence officers and a pro-Palestinian Lebanese who had turned informant. On December 23, 1997, a French jury found Sánchez guilty and sentenced him to life imprisonment.
• Also on this day, in 1946, an undersea earthquake sets off a powerful tsunami that devastates Honshu, Japan. About 2,000 people perished and half a million were left homeless. This was particularly devastating to a community that was already reeling from the horrors of World War II.
In all, 60,000 square miles were flooded by the waves and 40,000 homes were completely destroyed.
The earthquake that shook at 4:20 am on December 21 was centered only 27 miles south of Honshu’s Kii Peninsula. The tremor had a magnitude of 8.5 and caused some buildings on Honshu to collapse, including some housing being used by U.S. occupation forces.
Even worse, three major tsunamis headed toward Honshu and the smaller islands of Kyushu and Shikoku. Local geographic features determined how intense the waves were when they hit land and how much damage they caused. In some places, the water receded severely first, providing a warning to local residents who were familiar with the signs of an imminent tsunami. When the tsunami hit Honshu, 20-foot waves obliterated buildings from shorelines and about 2,000 ships were capsized as they were thrown around by the mass of water.
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