One Thing We Know This Year (That We Pretended Not to Know Since 1973)

by Andrew C. McCarthy

Yasser Arafat orchestrated and ordered the murders of two United States diplomats (as well as one Belgian diplomat) in Sudan in March 1973.

World Net Daily reports that earlier this year the U.S. government finally declassified this memorandum, providing a secret summary report of a raid on the Saudi embassy in Khartoum on March 1, 1973, by operatives of Black September, a militia within Arafat’s Fatah faction of the PLO.  (Thanks for the heads up to my friend Bill West, a frequent contributor at the Counterterrorism Blog). 

The Saudis were holding a reception for the U.S. Charge d’Affaires, George Curtis Moore, who was departing.  The terrorists kidnapped Moore, U.S. Ambassador Cleo Noel, and the Belgian Charge d’Affaires, Guy Eid, in addition to two other diplomats, a Saudi and a Jordanian. 

Arafat gave the order to kill the the two Americans and the Belgian from Fatah headquarters in Beirut.  The memorandum states:  “The Khartoum operation was planned and carried out with the full knowledge and personal approval of Yasir Arafat.”

Interestingly, notwithstanding this information long known to our government, a State Department official as late as 2002 claimed — in an email to a Minneapolis attorney who was insistent that Arafat was behind the Khartoum murders — that “[e]vidence clearly points to the terrorist group Black September as having committed the assassinations of Amb. Noel and George Moore, and though Black September was a part of the Fatah movement, the linkage between Arafat and this group has never been established.”   

For those interested in a walk down memory lane, my NRO obituary for Arafat, “The Father of Modern Terrorism,” is here.  It includes the infuriating denouement to this episode.  Although the previously classified memo takes pains to point out that “[n]o effort was spared, within the capabilities of the Sudanese Government, to secure the freedom of the hostages[,]“ that’s not exactly the whole story. 

Arafat — as the memo relates — instructed the eight terrorists to surrender to the Sudanese authorities.  Not included, though, is what happened next.  The Sudanese quickly released two, purporting that the evidence was insufficient.  Then, a trial was held for the remaining six, upon which they were convicted, sentenced to life imprisonment in Sudan, and … released to the PLO the next day.