DAMASCUS (Reuters) - The Palestinian militant who masterminded the deadly assault on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics died in Syria on Saturday, Palestinian officials said.
Mohammed Daoud Odeh, also known as Abu Daoud, died in Andalus Hospital in Damascus after suffering kidney failure. He was 73.
A former leader of the Black September Palestinian guerrilla group, Abu Daoud said he planned the Munich hostage-taking in which 11 Israelis died.
But Abu Daoud, who did not take part in the attack, said he was not directly responsible for the deaths.
“I didn’t kill anybody and I didn’t order anybody’s killing,” Abu Daoud told Reuters 1999 after publishing memoirs in which he boasted of planning the abduction.
He was buried on Saturday at the Martyrs Cemetery in Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp near Damascus. His funeral was attended by officials from various Palestinian groups, including President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction.
On September 5, 1972, eight Black September gunmen scaled the perimeter fence surrounding the Olympic athletes’ village, their weapons concealed in sports bags amid relaxed security.
Within 24 hours, 11 Israelis, five Palestinians and a German policeman were dead after a standoff and subsequent rescue effort erupted into gunfire.
Abu Daoud said in his book the guerrillas killed two Israelis at the start of the operation because they resisted as the commandos stormed their Olympic quarters.
Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir then upset the guerrillas’ plans, rejecting their offer to free the hostages in exchange for the release of 236 Palestinians held by Israel.
Then, Abu Daoud said, German police went back on their word, opening fire on the guerrillas and their hostages at the airport after promising to let them leave. When the smoke cleared, nine hostages and five guerrillas were dead on the tarmac.
He said he regretted that Palestinians had resorted to violence because the killings backfired, creating a public outcry rather than sympathy for the Palestinian cause.
After the publication of his book Israel refused to allow Abu Daoud entry into Palestinian self-ruled areas of the West Bank from Jordan, a decision he disputed.
“The (Israeli) decision to bar my return is linked to an event that has happened 27 years ago, the Munich operation, which we considered a legitimate struggle against the enemy we were fighting,” he told Reuters in Amman
Reporting by Marwan Makdesi; Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Jon Hemming