Military Wiki
Abu Nidal Organization internal executions
Part of Palestinian political violence
Date 1987–1988
Deaths 600
  • Abu Nidal
  • Mustafa Ibrahim Sanduqa
  • Isam Maraqa
  • Sulaiman Samrin
  • Mustafa Awad

The Abu Nidal Organization internal executions were the mass executions of members of the Abu Nidal Organization and their families by Abu Nidal and key associates during 1987–1988. The executions took place at a number of locations in Syria, Lebanon and Libya. The number of people executed – mostly Palestinians – is estimated at 600.[1]


The Abu Nidal Organization was established by Sabri Khalil al-Bannah (Abu Nidal), a Palestinian Arab nationalist and a former Ba'ath party member. Al-Bannah established his faction within the PLO, just prior the Black September in Jordan, and following internal disagreements within the PLO. During Fatah's Third Congress in Damascus in 1971, he emerged as the leader of a leftist alliance against Arafat.

Abu Nidal's first independent operation took place on September 5, 1973, when five gunmen using the name Al-Iqab ("The Punishment") seized the Saudi embassy in Paris, taking 11 hostages and threatening to blow up the building if Abu Dawud was not released from jail in Jordan, where he had been arrested in February 1973 for an attempt on King Hussein's life.[2] Following the incident, Mahmud Abbas of the PLO took flight to Iraq to meet Abu Nidal. In the meeting Abbas became so angry, that he stormed out of the meeting, followed by the other PLO delegates, and from that point on, the PLO regarded Abu Nidal as a mercenary.[3]

Two months later, just after the October 1973 Yom Kippur War, during discussions about convening a peace conference in Geneva, the Abu Nidal Organization (ANO) hijacked a KLM airliner, using the name of the Arab Nationalist Youth Organization. The operation was intended to send a signal to Fatah not to send representatives to any peace conference. In response, Arafat officially expelled Abu Nidal from Fatah in March 1974, and the rift between the two groups, and the two men, was complete.[4]

Abu Nidal's organization was engaged in a series of international terrorist incidents aimed at Israel and Western countries. Setting himself up as a freelance contractor, Abu Nidal is believed by the United States Department of State to have ordered attacks in 20 countries, killing or injuring over 900 people.[5] The ANO group's most notorious attacks were on the El Al ticket counters at Rome and Vienna airports in December 1985, when Arab gunmen high on amphetamines opened fire on passengers in simultaneous shootings, killing 18 and wounding 120. Patrick Seale, Abu Nidal's biographer, wrote of the attacks that their "random cruelty marked them as typical Abu Nidal operations."[6]

Executions within the organization

According to ANO members who were able to escape, recruits were buried alive, fed through a tube forced into their mouths, then finally killed by a bullet fired down the tube. Some had their genitals placed in skillets of boiling-hot oil.—Duane 'Dewey' Clarridge[7]

The ANO's official newspaper Filastin al-Thawra regularly carried stories announcing the execution of traitors within the movement.[8] Each new recruit of the ANO was given several days to write his entire life story by hand – including names and addresses of family members, friends, and lovers – and was then required to sign a paper agreeing to his execution if anything was found to be untrue. Every so often, the recruit would be asked to rewrite the whole story. Any discrepancies were taken as evidence that he was a spy and he would be made to write it out again, often after days of being beaten and nights spent forced to sleep standing up.[9]

1987 events

By 1987, Abu Nidal had turned the full force of his paranoia and terror tactics inwards on the ANO itself. Members were routinely tortured by the "Committee for Revolutionary Justice" until they confessed to betrayal and disloyalty.[10] Men would be hanged naked for hours and whipped until they lost consciousness, then revived with salt or chili powder rubbed into their wounds. A naked prisoner would be forced into a car tire with his legs and backside in the air, then whipped, wounded, and salted. Plastic melted under a flame would be dripped onto prisoners' skin. According to recruits who were able to escape, prisoners' genitals would be placed in skillets of boiling-hot oil and fried while the men were held down. Between interrogations, prisoners would be confined alone in tiny cells, bound hand and foot. If the cells were full, a prisoner might be buried alive, with a steel pipe in his mouth to allow him to breathe. Water would be poured into it occasionally. When word came that Abu Nidal wanted the prisoner executed, a bullet would be fired down the tube instead, then the pipe removed and the hole filled in.[7]


In one year from 1987–1988, around 600 were killed, between a third and a half of the membership of the ANO. Abu Nidal even had the elderly wife of a veteran member, Al-Hajj Abu Musa, thrown in jail and killed on a charge of lesbianism. The killings were mostly the work of four men: Mustafa Ibrahim Sanduqa of the Justice Committee; Isam Maraqa, Abu Nidal's deputy, who was married to his wife's niece; Sulaiman Samrin, also known as Dr. Ghassan al-Ali, the ANO's first secretary; and Mustafa Awad, also known as Alaa, the head of the Intelligence Directorate. Most of the decisions to kill, said Abu Dawud, a long-time member of the ANO, were taken by Abu Nidal "in the middle of the night, after he [had] knocked back a whole bottle of whiskey".[10]


  1. [1]
  2. Melman 1986, p. 69.
  3. Seale 1992, p. 92.
  4. Melman 1986, p. 70.
  5. "Abu Nidal Organization", Country Reports on Terrorism, 2004. United States Department of State, 2005.
  6. Seale 1992, pp. 243–244.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Clarridge 1997, cited in Ledeen 2002.
    • Also see Seale 1992, pp. 286–287.
  8. Abu Khalil, 2000.
  9. Seale 1992, pp. 6–7.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Seale 1992, pp. 287–289.

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).