Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Munich 1972 massacre

Fourty years ago, Munich hosted the 1972 Olympic games. The games was well known for Mark Spitz (USA) winning 7 gold medals in swimming and his record was only surpassed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics with Michael Phelps (USA) winning 8 gold medals.


On the morning of 5 September, after 4am, eight Black September terrorists armed with AK rifles, stormed the Olympic village. The leader of the group, Luttif Afif (nicknamed Issa) and his assisstant were workers during the construction of the Olympic venues which he was able to know the exact location of the Israeli Olympic team. During the storm in, an Israeli wrestling referee saw a door open with a barell of an AK poking through. He threw his entire weight on the door shouting a warning which allowed a few Israeli athletes to escape through the windows. The terrorists managed to break in and took 9 Israeli athletes hostage while killing 2 others in the process. One of the dead athletes' body was dumped outside which was discovered by a German police officer who raised the alarm.


When the tense standoff began, the terrorists threw 2 sheets of paper out the window demanding the release of 234 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons with all their names printed on the sheet. They demanded the release to be made by 9am but the German authorities needed more time as the Israeli government was still discussing on the situation so the terrorists extended the deadline till 12pm noon. The Israeli government then told the Germans that they refused to negotiate with the terrorists and the only way to resolve this situation was the use of force. During negotiations, the terrorists covered their identity meaning that they had planned to remain alive. If they had intentions of death or suicide, then there was no point of covering their identity. After 12pm noon, the terrorists did not open fire at the hostages. An Olympic official was sent into the Olympic village to check on the condition of the hostages and at the same time, count the number of terrorists inside. The official counted 5 terrorists. The German police were about to conduct a raid when their preparations were filmed live. The police failed to clear the area and the media crowded the outside of the Olympic village and many could have been killed if the terrorist opened fire on the crowd with the AK's deadly 7.62mm rounds. The terrorists watched the preparations live on TV and demanded the police to retreat or they will execute the hostages. The police retreated. Another problem was that the ones conducting the raid were just ordinary street cops. During the preparations, the officers (disguised in sports clothing) did not use every bit of cover and did not hold their weapons properly for the whole time like they've never used it before. The police did not note what weapons were used by the terrorists. The terrorists used AK rifles which takes a second or more to switch the safety switch. By having this in mind, the extra second or two could allow precious time for expert marksmen to be able take advantage over.  


The terrorists then demanded to be transported (along with the hostages) to an airport where they will board a Boeing 727 on a flight to Egypt (a safe haven at the time for terrorists fighting against Israel). Both the terrorists and hostages moved to a bus where they were transported to a nearby field where 2 UH-1 helicopters took them to a military airbase. During the bus ride, the German police clearly saw that there were eight terrorists not five but nothing was being done to change what planned next. At F├╝rstenfeldbruck Air Base, the plan was to kill Issa and his assistant while they inspected the plane and the five snipers eliminate the other terrorists while the helicopters landed facing sideways.


At the airbase, the Germans involved in the raid were just ordinary street cops. The police officers chose to abandon their plan to overpower Issa at the plane as the fear of Issa or his assistant dropping a grenade by the wing section will blow up the entire plane killing everyone on board. This leaves the five snipers to deal with the situation. Sniper one was behind a sandpit, sniper two was behind a truck while the last three snipers were at the control tower. The snipers too were ordinary street cops that were not even trained as snipers and did not have helmets, body armor, night vision and scopes. They ended up relying on the floodlights attached on the tower. Equiped with G3 rifles, they were capable of being sniper rifles (carrying the 7.62mm round) as long as they have a long barell (for accuracy) and scope. The reason for street cops being completely involved was because West Germany did not allow the military to be involved in civilian crisis during peacetime.


During the landing, the helicopters landed facing directly the control tower. Issa and his assistant inspected the plane and upon inspecting, they rushed out thinking it's a trap. As the two ran back, sniper two open fired hitting his assistant in the thigh. A gun battle raged on(the pilots escaped) with the helicopters facing the tower, snipers one and two were in the line of fire of the last three snipers. In this case, the three snipers on the tower were left to deal with the eight terrorists. During the battle, the terrorists opened fire killing all the hostages inside on helicopter and threw a grenade into another helicopter killing all hostages inside that helicopter. Five terrorists were killed along with a German police officer on the tower. The remaining three were captured alive by the Germans. A Lufthansa airliner was later hijacked demanding the last three terrorists to be released. The Germans quickly released the three.


The rescue that turned into a disaster later saw the creation of the GSG9, which was Germany's counter terrorism unit. Israel responded by launching Operation Wrath of God to find those responsible.

After the Munich Olympics, nations hosting the games had intense security with huge investments being made. Security forces had been showing off in front of the world media before the Olympics as seen in Athens, Beijing and London as a sign that they are ready for any terror attacks.

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