On December 27, 1985 two separate European airports came under fire in a coordinated terrorist attack. The attacks were carried out by the Abu Nidal Organization, a radical splinter group that had broken off from the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The attacks were ostensibly a retaliation for the Israeli bombing of PLO headquarters in Tunis in October of 1985.
The attacks themselves started within minutes of each other a little after 8 am at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport and Vienna’s Schwechat Airport. Both attacks started when gunman opened fire near the El Al ticket counters. Hand grenades were also thrown into unsuspecting crowds by the terrorist. Four terrorist conducted the Rome attack and three terrorists committed the Vienna attack.
The Roman attackers killed 16 and wounded 99, before being stopped by Italian police and EL Al security guards. Three of the attackers were killed by El Al security, while the remaining one, Mohammed Sharam, was wounded and captured by the Italian police. The dead included American diplomat Wes Wessels and General Donato Miranda Acosta, Mexican military attache, and his secretary, Genoveva Jaime Cisneros.
The Vienna attackers killed two people instantly and wounded 39 others. A third victim died on 22 January 1986, of hand grenade wounds sustained in the attack. Austrian police officers and El Al security immediately engaged the terrorists in a fierce gun battle. Over 200 bullets were fired during the fight. The terrorists seized a Mercedes outside the terminal and fled, with Austrian police and El Al security guards giving chase. They killed one terrorist and captured the other two several miles from the airport after another brief gun battle.
The surviving terrorist in the Rome airport attack, was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment. He was released early on good behavior in June 2010. He later condemned terrorism, regretted the attacks, and said that he prays for forgiveness. The two surviving terrorists in the Vienna airport attack to life imprisonment.
PHOTO BY THIS FILE WAS UPLOADED WITH COMMONIST. - OWN WORK: HANSUELI KRAPF (USER SIMISA (TALK · CONTRIBS)), CC BY-SA 3.0, HTTPS://COMMONS.WIKIMEDIA.ORG/W/INDEX.PHP?CURID=16673011