End of 'the Jackal'

August 17, 1994

In Frederich Forsyth's vintage novel, "The Day of the Jackal," a fictional assassin hired by a shadowy terrorist group to kill French President Charles de Gaulle manages to stay one step ahead of the authorities until the very last pages of the book. So it was with the elusive Illich Ramirez Sanchez, dubbed "Carlos the Jackal" by half a dozen security agencies around the world and for more than 20 years one of the world's most wanted criminals.

On Sunday, the law finally caught up with Sanchez in the North African nation of Sudan, whose agents seized him in a rented house there and handed him over to Interpol, the international police agency, for extradition to France. French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua said that Sanchez, whom the French had tried in absentia and sentenced to life in prison during the 1970s, was responsible for at least 83 deaths worldwide and hundreds of injuries in terrorist attacks in Europe, the Middle East and Japan.

Like his fictional namesake, the real Carlos was a master of disguise whose only published photographs show little more than a chubby face hidden behind dark glasses. The son of a fanatical left-wing Venezuelan lawyer who named each of his sons after Vladimir Illich Lenin, Carlos began his terrorist career as a member of the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in the late 1960s. In his most spectacular attack, in December 1975, Carlos and a squad of Palestinian and West German guerrillas shot their way into an OPEC meeting in Vienna and kidnapped 11 Arab oil ministers gathered there.

Carlos' capture represents a major victory for anti-terrorist forces. It is a plain warning to other international outlaws that they can run, but they can't hide. In the end, governments committed to upholding the rule of law always win out over terrorist anarchy. Abu Nidal, if he has any sense, should be looking over his shoulder right now.

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