7 Nov 2011

Carlos the Jackal on trial for French bomb attacks

9:02 pm on 7 November 2011

The international terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal goes on trial in Paris on Monday in connection with bomb attacks on trains in France in the early 1980s that killed eleven people.

"Carlos", a Venezuelan whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, is already serving a life sentence in France for the murder of two policemen in 1975.

He was captured in 1994 when French special forces seized him from a hospital room in Sudan and took him to Paris inside a sack.

The 62 year old earned global notoriety as a mastermind of fatal bomb attacks, assassinations and hostage-takings.

His most infamous act was leading a raid in Vienna in 1975, when his group took 11 ministers of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or Opec, hostage.

His group left with hostages on a plane provided by Austrian authorities and was eventually given asylum in Algiers.

The new charges relate to four deadly attacks in France in 1982 and 1983, which killed 11 people and wounded another 100.

Prosecutors allege he carried out the attacks in order to pressure the authorities to release two of his accomplices, including Magdalena Kopp, who he went on to marry.

Five people died in an attack on a train between Paris and Toulouse. The other attacks happened in Paris, Marseille and on a TGV fast train.

Ramirez denies he had anything to do with the bombings.

Last month, he told a radio station he was "in a combative mood" as he prepared for the trial.

"I'm not fearful by nature ... My character is suited to this kind of combat," he said.

But if found guilty, he could face another life sentence in prison.

Ramirez was born into a wealthy Venezuelan family, who named him after Vladimir Ilich Lenin and he was a member of the youth wing of Venezuela's Communist Party. He studied in Moscow before joining the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

His links to such high profile incidents as the Opec hostage-taking and the Palestinian hijacking of a French airline to Uganda in 1976 helped to make him the face of international terrorism during the 1970s and 1980s.

Ramirez converted to Islam in 1975. He was called Carlos by a PFLP leader and a newspaper added the jackal when it was reported he had left a copy of the Frederick Forsyth novel, The Day of the Jackal belongings found by agents while on the run.