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Hagop Hagopian
Հակոբ Հակոբյան
Born 1951
Mosul, Iraq
Died 28 April 1988 (aged 36–37)
Athens, Greece
Nationality Armenian
Known for Leader of ASALA

Hagop Hagopian (or Agop Agopian; Armenian language: Յակոբ Յակոբեան

1951–28 April 1988) was one of the founders and the main leader of the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA).


Born in Mosul, Iraq as Harutiun Takoshian, he took the nom de guerre Hagop Hagopian,[1][2] and moved to Lebanon, where according to some sources he joined the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.[3] In 1975, along with pastor Rev. James Karnusian and writer Kevork Ajemian, and with the support from Palestinian groups, he founded in Beirut the ASALA.[4] As leader of ASALA, he directed attacks and assassinations of Turkish diplomats and their families in various countries of the world.

Many in the leadership of ASALA and JCAG were reported to be highly educated, multilingual individuals. The most notorious was the shadowy figure of Hagop Hagopian, presumed an alias, who led ASALA during most of its active phase.

—Historical Dictionary of Armenia, by Rouben Paul Adalian, 2010 - p. 170

Following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, Hagopian fled and supposedly set up new bases in Damascus and Athens. He broke with the Palestine Liberation Organization, which had given ASALA training and support, and linked up with the anti-PLO leader Abu Nidal.[5]

Hagopian was wanted in France for masterminding the Orly airport attack in July 1983.[6] This attack resulted in a split in ASALA, with the splinter group ASALA Revolutionary Movement led by Monte Melkonian condemning "the murderous deviation" of Hagopian.[7] Hagopian's more militant faction concentrated in the Middle East and Greece.[8] In the aftermath of the split, Hagopian executed two of Melkonian's allies within ASALA in retaliation for the assassination of two of Hagopian's closest aides.[9]

According to the unidentified U.S. official quoted by The Washington Post, in the late 1980s ASALA had grown more mercenary due to financial difficulties, and "Hagopian became a gun for hire".[10]


Hagopian was assassinated outside his home in Athens' Palaio Faliro suburb at 4:30 a.m. on 28 April 1988,[11] while he was waiting for a taxi to take him to the airport for a flight to Belgrade. He was accompanied by his sister-in-law, who was not hurt.

A Greek police official said two armed men got out of a parked car as Hagopian walked out of his apartment building carrying his luggage. One of the two men opened fire with a sawed-off shotgun, wounding Hagopian in the chest and elbow. As Hagopian tried to flee, the killer ran after him and fired twice into his head and chest. The attackers escaped in a car left parked across the street.[12]

The victim was at first identified as Abdul Mohammed Kasim, 39, from a South Yemen diplomatic passport he was carrying.[13] However, when police questioned his wife Jeanine, she revealed that her husband used numerous false passports and identified him as Hagop Hagopian who had lived in Athens for about a year under the name Henri Titizian and had frequently traveled abroad using the Yemeni passport.[12] The South Yemeni Embassy denied having any knowledge of Hagopian's real identity. Authorities in Greece also stated that they were not aware of the real identity of the victim.[13]

No one claimed responsibility for the assassination. According to Turkish sources, the assassination was carried out by a Turkish counterterrorist team and the attack was planned and led by Mete Günyol.[14] The Turkish government denied complicity in the assassination.[15] The Washington Post quoted a U.S. intelligence source as saying: "It's hard to say who hit him. He was not a nice character by any stretch of the imagination. He was certainly a very wanted man".[10] A later report claimed that Syrians had been behind his assassination, as Hagopian refused to follow their orders to bomb Christian east Beirut, and they were also displeased with Hagopian as he had close relations with Palestinians such as Abu Ayad.[16] According to Markar Melkonian, the brother of Monte Melkonian, Hagopian's assassins were former ASALA members and lieutenants of Hagopian.[17]

The body of Hagop Hagopian was flown to Iraq and buried in his home town of Mosul. It was revealed that Hagopian's real name was Harutiun Takoshian and that his parents, Macardich and Siranoush Takoshian, still lived in Mosul.[18] Previously, the French police had claimed that his real name was Bedros Hovanissian.[10]

In Nancy Kricorian's novel Dreams of Bread and Fire, there is a conversation dedicated to Hagopian, "the big boss in ASALA".[19]


  1. Zürcher, Erik Jan (2004). "Turkey: a modern history". IB Tauris. p. 277. ISBN 978-1-86064-958-5. .
  2. Middle East Information Resource on ASALA.
  3. Harvey W. Kushner. Encyclopedia of terrorism. SAGE, 2002. ISBN 0-7619-2408-6, ISBN 978-0-7619-2408-1, p. 47
  4. Leonard Weinberg, Ami Pedahzur. Political parties and terrorist groups. Routledge, 2003. ISBN 0-415-26871-0, ISBN 978-0-415-26871-4, p. 153
  5. Newsday. October 31, 1986. Jack Anderson, Dale Van Atta. French Refuse of Help Turks Track Terrorist.
  6. The Times, April 29, 1988. Elusive rebel is killed in Athens.
  7. The Guardian, April 30, 1988. Turks deny killing Armenian activist: Faction fighting blamed for assassination of Hagopian.
  8. Revolutionary and dissident movements: an international guide, by Guy Arnold, 1991, p. 350
  9. Gavin Cameron. Nuclear terrorism: a threat assessment for the 21st century. Palgrave Macmillan, 1999. ISBN 0-312-21983-0, ISBN 978-0-312-21983-3, p. 50
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Smith, Philip (April 29, 1988). "The Washington Post". .
  11. "Hagop Hagopian, Legendary Leader of ASALA, Gunned Down in Athens, Greece," The Armenian Reporter, 28 April 1988, p. 1
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Gunmen Kill Man in Athens Identified as Armenian Terrorist Chief". Associated Press News Archive. The Associated Press. 28 April 1988. Retrieved 15 September 2012. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 Quinn, Patrick (29 April 1988). "Dead Leader's Body Re-Examined For Identity Check". Associated Press News Archive. The Associated Press. Retrieved 15 September 2012. 
  14. Sabah. Büyük balık Agop Agopyan Atina sokaklarında vuruldu
  15. The Guardian, April 30, 1988. Turks deny killing Armenian activist: Faction fighting blamed for assassination of Agopian.
  16. Conflict studies, Vol. 223-236, Institute for the Study of Conflict, 1989, p. 24
  17. Melkonian, Markar. My Brother's Road: An American's Fateful Journey to Armenia. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005 pg. 187.
  18. The Associated Press, May 9, 1988. Body of slain ASALA leader flown to Iraq for burial.
  19. Dreams of Bread and Fire: A Novel, Nancy Kricorian, Grove Press, 2003, p. 193

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