Menu JTA Search

Austrian Foreign Minister Arrives in Israel As Terrorists Invade Opec Hq in Vienna and Seize 30 Host

Austrian Foreign Minister Erich Bielka said on a radio interview here tonight that he may have to break off his three-day official visit to Israel and return to Vienna where five gunmen, identified as Arab terrorists, invaded the headquarters of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) today and are holding at least 30 hostages. The latter are believed to include senior ministers of several oil producing states, among them Saudi Arabia’s Oil Minister Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani and the Interior Minister of Iran, Jamshid Amouzegar.

The terrorists were identified in a document found in Geneva late today as members of a group calling itself the “Arm of the Arab Revolution.” The document spoke of a “high level plot aimed at obtaining recognition for the legality of Zionist presence in our territory” and accused “reactionary, traitorous and defeatist regimes in the Arab world” of turning to the United States, ostensibly in furtherance of the alleged “plot.”

A statement released by the Palestine News Agency “Wafa” in Beirut this evening said the Palestine Liberation Organization condemned the terrorist attack in Vienna as an attempt to discredit Third World efforts to achieve equality with the industrialized countries.

The statement said that “undoubtedly American imperialism and Zionism are behind this operation which is aimed at undermining OPEC so that the Third World may have no strong weapons to face monopolist conspiracies, oil prices remain as they are and oil flows into the pockets of the big monopolists in the United States.” The statement was issued by Farouk Kaddoumi, head of the PLO’s political department.

The statement issued by the terrorists, broadcast on Austrian radio at two-hour intervals, labeled Egyptian President Anwar Sadat as “one of the leading traitors” in the Arab world and charged that Iran is an “active imperialist tool.”

The first reports of the terrorist assault in Vienna reached here just as Bielka was landing at Ben Gurion Airport where he was greeted by Foreign Minister Yigal Allon. He proceeded to Jerusalem, nevertheless, made a ceremonial visit to Mt. Herzl and briefed newsmen. On his radio interview tonight he said he hoped he would be able to complete his visit but that his plans were uncertain because he did not have an updated account of events in Vienna. The terrorist attack forced Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky to interrupt a skiing holiday in Lech. Western Austria, and fly back to Vienna today.

POLICE SURROUND OPEC HQ

According to initial reports from the Austrian capital, five persons including two OPEC officials and an Austrian security guard were mowed down by terrorist machinegun fire at OPEC headquarters. Later reports said that only the guard was killed. Police have surrounded the OPEC building where the terrorists have threatened the hostages’ lives.

The attack occurred as 12 of OPEC’s 13 oil ministers were in the second day of a conference on problems of price-cutting within the organization. Only the United Arab Emirate’s Oil Minister, Mana Saced al-Oteiba, was outside the building at the time. The other OPEC countries are Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, Nigeria, Indonesia, Qatar, Libya, Ecuador, Algeria and Gabon.

Reports from Vienna identified the terrorists as four young men and a woman, two of whom appeared to be European and the others described as “swarthy” and probably of Middle Eastern origin. Police said they had demanded a DC-7 airliner to fly themselves and their hostages to an unknown destination. They also reportedly demanded that a statement on Arab policy be road over the Austrian radio.

FORMER INCIDENT RECALLED

Austrian government officials said the terrorists had asked that the Libyan Ambassador to Austria, Ezzedin Al Ghadamsi be summoned to the OPEC building to serve as an intermediary. The envoy was reportedly on a visit to Prague and officials were trying to locate him and bring him back to Vienna, the report said.

Reports from Geneva said it was not immediately possible to confirm the authenticity of the document identifying the terrorists as the “Arm of the Arab Revolution.” The seven type-written pages, in French, were reportedly found in a men’s lavatory near the Palais Des Nations, the United Nations headquarters in Geneva. The document reportedly praised Syria as the leader of progressive Arab governments.

The leader of the gang was identified as one surnamed Carlos. This led to speculation that it was Carlos Martinez, a formerly identified Venezuelan assassin who is wanted in Europe in connection with the murder of two French security officers and a Lebanese in Paris last June. Subsequently, papers, bombs, pistols and hand grenades, which were said to belong to Carlos were found in a London flat.

It was recalled that the last terrorist incident in Austria was when a train and its passengers were seized in September, 1973, shortly before the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War. There were reports afterwards that the incident was perpetrated in order to divert attention away from the massive buildup of Arab troops along Israel’s borders in preparation for the war.

ISSUES ON ALLON-BIELKA AGENDA

If Foreign Minister Bielka is able to continue his visit here, the issue of Austria’s attitude toward the PLO is expected to figure in his talks with Allon. Bielka said in a recent interview that if the PLO asked for representation at Vienna-based agencies of the UN. Austria would follow the example of UN agencies in New York and Geneva and grant the required entry permits. He did not any whether his government would follow Now York’s lead in limiting the permits to the immediate vicinity of the UN offices.

Israeli officials were expected to ask Bielka to clarify his government’s position on this as yet hypothetical question and also on the broader Palestinian issue. The Austrian diplomat is reported to have referred recently to the Palestinians’ right to a “Heimat” (homeland) which could be construed as a territory with less than full political independence.

In the past, Austria has favored the U.S. West German-Dutch position of no recognition or negotiations with the PLO unless the latter recognizes Israel’s right to exist and accepts Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.

Another issue to be raised with Bielka–if he stays here for the full three days–is that of compensation for Nazi victims. So far, Austria has only met some property claims and contends that it was conquered by the Nazis in 1938 and therefore not responsible for their atrocities.

About 12,000 potential eligible claimants living is Israel will have their case stated to Bielka by MK Hilled Zeidel of the Independent Liberal Party Bielka himself is a concentration camp survivor, having been ousted from the Austrian foreign service after the Anschluss and imprisoned at Dachau. He and his wife planned to vacation in Israel for about a week after his official visit ended. But as of tonight his plans were uncertain. (By David Landau).

NEXT STORY