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Rome and Vienna Airport Terrorist Attacks

Updated on July 1, 2011

On 27 December 1985, the media world was buzzing with two sets of news. Tragedy had struck at Rome and Vienna airports. Within minutes of each other, both airports were simultaneously attacked by terrorists. The pre-planned attacks claimed 19 lives in total and injured almost 150 people. While the attacks definitely came as a surprise, the aftermath of the attacks had most airports tightening security and thorough checks that are now present in most airports throughout the world, especially the busier ones, are in direct effect of the attacks that happened in Rome and Vienna on the ill-fated day.

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The first attack on 27 December came early in the morning at 8:15am at the ticketing counter of Israel’s National Airline, El Al at Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport in Rome, Italy. The ticketing counter, which was full of people since it just opened for the morning, was caught completely off-guard when four gunmen took out Kalashnikov rifles and opened fire at passengers queuing for tickets. Matters were made worse when grenades were thrown around the counter, where people dropped to the ground to take cover from the open fire. Almost immediately, Italian police rushed on scene and during a gunfight battle which lasted over five minutes, all four gunmen were shot dead by police on scene. The damage was already done, however, as the terrorists at the Rome airport took 16 lives and wounded a hundred others.

Minutes later, before any warnings could be made to other airports throughout the world, three terrorists stormed the Schwechat Airport in Vienna, Austria and threw grenades towards passengers who were queuing up heading for Tel Aviv. The attack, despite being largely similar with the first attack at Rome minutes ago were not as deadly as the first as before the terrorists could open fire with their assault rifles, Austrian police gave chase and the terrorists had to flee the airport. Two passengers died in the second attack, with about 40 injured and one passenger succumbed to grenade injuries several weeks later on January 22. The three terrorists tried to make their escape by car but a successful police interception meant one of them being killed and two surrendering to the police after suffering serious injuries.

Mumbai Terror Attack

From the interviews with the terrorists, it was believed that the terrorists initially planned to hijack aircrafts and run them into Tel Aviv, Israel as a form of retaliation against Israeli forces when they bombed the Palestinian Liberation Organization headquarters in Tunis back in October as part of Operation Wooden Leg. The attacks were first blamed on the Yasser Arafat-led PLO but after Arafat denounced the attacks publicly, Abu Nidal Organization, part of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, the most well known terrorist organization of the time before al-Qaeda, claimed the responsibility of the attack. While most of the global community condemned the terrorist attack as senseless since the attack caused the death of a child, Libya hailed and praised the attacks and was believed to have funded the attack and supplied weapons to the perpetrators.

Since the terrorist attacks on 27 December 1985, airports have stepped up security several fold with many experts believing that airports make the most dangerous targets due to the high number of passengers throughout the day and the ability for terrorists to hijack planes with relative ease if security were not to be tightened enough. This proved to be true as seen in the September 11 2001 attacks almost 20 years after the attacks in Rome and Vienna.


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      IsraeliTactical 4 years ago

      Yes, the report is also inaccurate in that the entire event lasted 15-20 seconds overall... not 5 minutes. In addition, not only did the Israeli Security guards take care of business quickly, only Israeli bullets were found in the terrorists... while Italian police bullets were only found in innocent civilians. That's good training!

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      gulistanbul 6 years ago from NY

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      boylston 7 years ago

      The report is not very precise.

      1)The attack at Rome's airport started with grenades and then Kalashnikov fire.

      2)The Israeli securuty saved our lives and not the Italian police.

      3)There were 4 terrorists. Three of them were killed and one of them caught.

    • TnFlash profile image

      TnFlash 8 years ago from Tampa, Florida

      Great Hub! Too bad our government here in the US does not take hints very well!!

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      gratifymenow 8 years ago

      The attack was carried out by the Abu Nidal faction of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, but it was supposed to put pressure on the western governments to release Marwan Al Banna. Al Banna is also Abu Nidal's family name, and Marwan is Abu Nidal's nephew. He was involved in the attempted assassination of the Israeli Ambassador to England, Shlomo Argov, in London, in 1982. Three members of the organisation were captured after a fire fight between them and the Israeli bodyguards. The instigator of the plot was Nawaf Rosan, who activated the two sleepers, Saeid and Marwan, who were posing as students. In the event Nawaf received a 35 year fixed sentence and Saeid and Marwan received 30 year sentences.

      Marwan was attacked by a fellow prisoner, who stabbed him in the neck with a pair of scissors. He started hearing voices and was sectioned off to Broadmoor mental hospital when he started declaring that he was Jesus Christ.

      The attack on Shlomo Argov led to the invasion of Lebanon by the Israeli's who wanted to break the power held by the Palestinians in Beirut, and this led to horrendous abuses of Human Rights in the refugee camps of Sabra and Chatila.

      Abu Nidal tried to force various governments to get his nephew released but to no avail.

      It is interesting to note that at the time Terry Waite was being held in Beirut, the Archbishop of Canterbury made several visits to Nawaf Rosan, who was in Parkhurst prison at the time, in order to influence the release of Waite and MaCarthy and Brian Keenan...

    • Philipo profile image

      Philipo 8 years ago from Nigeria

      Very informative. I wonder why people have devilish minds.

    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 8 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      very informative article. god bless you