Rome and Vienna airport attacks
|This article relies largely or entirely upon a single source. (December 2012)|
|Rome and Vienna airport attacks|
Aftermath of a fast food restaurant in the Leonardo da Vinci International Airport after the attack
|Location||Rome, Italy and Vienna, Austria|
|Date||27 December 1985
9:15 am (UTC+1)
|Target||Israeli targets in Leonardo da Vinci Airport (Rome) and Vienna International Airport (Vienna)|
|direct assault on target; possibly attempted hijacking|
|Deaths||19 civilians; 4 terrorists|
|138 civilians; 1 terrorist shot and captured; 2 terrorists captured|
|Perpetrators||Abu Nidal Organization claimed responsibility|
The Rome and Vienna airport attacks were two major terrorist strikes carried out on 27 December 1985.
At 08:15 GMT, four gunmen walked to the shared ticket counter for Israel's El Al Airlines and Trans World Airlines at Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport outside Rome, Italy, fired assault rifles, and threw grenades. They killed 16 and wounded 99 including American diplomat Wes Wessels before three of the attackers were killed, while the remaining one, Mohammed Sharam, was wounded and captured by the Italian police.
Minutes later, at Schwechat Airport (Vienna International Airport) in Vienna, Austria, three terrorists carried out a similar attack. Hand grenades were thrown into crowds of passengers queuing to check in for a flight to Tel Aviv, killing two people instantly and wounding 39 others. A third victim died on 22 January 1986, of hand grenade wounds sustained in the attack. After the attack, the terrorists fled by car, and Austrian police gave chase. They killed one terrorist and captured the other two.
In all, the two strikes killed 19, including a child, and wounded around 140. Some contemporary reports claimed the gunmen originally intended to hijack El Al jets at the airports and blow them up over Tel Aviv; others concluded that the attack on waiting passengers was the original plan and that the Frankfurt airport was meant to be hit as well.
The attacks were first blamed on the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), but its leader, Yasser Arafat, denied the accusations and denounced the strikes. The PLO asserted that the attacks were intended to force Austria and Italy into severing ties with the Palestinians.
Responsibility for the two attacks was later claimed by the Abu Nidal Organization (ANO) in retaliation for Operation Wooden Leg, the Israeli bombing of PLO headquarters in Tunis on 1 October 1985. Libya was accused of funding the terrorists who carried out the attacks; although they denied the charges, they did praise the assaults. According to published reports, sources close to Abu Nidal said Libyan intelligence supplied the weapons and the ANO's head of the Intelligence Directorate's Committee for Special Missions, Dr. Ghassan al-Ali, organized the attacks. Libya denied these charges as well, notwithstanding that it claimed they were "heroic operations carried out by the sons of the martyrs of Sabra and Shatila."
- Terrorist Attack at Vienna Airport in 1985 - ORF Austrian Broadcasting Corporation news
- Terrorists Kill 13 At El Al Offices – published on the Miami News on 27 December 1985
- El Al Attacks; 16 Dead, 100 Hurt – published on Lewiston Journal on 27 December 1985
- Terror raids leave 17 dead at Rome, Vienna airports Attack aimed at Israeli airline – published on the Toronto Star on 27 December 1985
- Terrorists Raid 2 Europe Airports – published on the Pittsburgh Press on 27 December 1985
- BBC: "On This Day"