TERRORISM: Horror and Death at the Olympics

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Reluctantly, Brandt had already made the day's most important decision. He had ruled out completely the possibility of permitting the terrorists to fly away with the prisoners, taking them to what West German authorities were convinced would be certain death. "That would be impossible for an honorable country to allow to happen," said the Chancellor. "We are responsible for the fate of these people."

In Bonn, Foreign Minister Walter Scheel made contact with as many Arab capitals as he could, but he got little assistance or advice. In fact, they made it plain that they did not want to become involved at all. The Tunisian ambassador and an Arab League representative from Bonn unsuccessfully tried to negotiate with the terrorists, who then announced that they would receive no more such emissaries.

Brandt decided to try one more call, to Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. At 8:15 p.m.—10:15 in the Egyptian capital—the Chancellor got through to Sadat's office, but was told that the President would be unavailable for at least 90 minutes. Finally, Brandt was connected to Premier Aziz Sidky, who said tersely, according to Munich reports: "We can do nothing. We do not want to get involved." The Egyptians demurred, they explained later, because they had not been asked to intercede by the guerrillas. They also argued that the Germans had already arranged an ambush when Brandt was talking.

The terrorists, meanwhile, had also been telephoning the Middle East from inside the apartments—and getting no answer. At one point the guerrillas called a fedayeen office in Lebanon, but it refused to accept the call. To the Germans, that sounded ominously as if the guerrilla movement had written off the Munich attack and was deserting the attackers; if that was true, the Munich Arabs might become even more desperate than they already were.

Interior Minister Genscher reported to Brandt that he could not stall the increasingly edgy terrorists very much longer. Genscher and the Arabs agreed to a new plan. The fedayeen and the hostages would be taken to Munich's airport and flown out on a Lufthansa 727 jet to any place they named. The Arabs selected Cairo as their destination and agreed to a new 7 p.m. deadline.

Both sides had other intentions. A 727 was flown to Fürstenfeldbruck, a West German airbase 16 miles outside Munich. No crew could be found that was willing to take the plane out again loaded with Arabs and Israelis; that scarcely mattered, since the Germans did not intend to let them leave. Already, plans were under way to transfer sharpshooters to Furstenfeldbruck. The Germans hoped that if the intransigent white-capped leader of the Arabs could be killed, his followers might surrender. The Arabs, as it turned out, were equally misleading about Cairo. When they finally did reach the airfield, they demanded a crew of eight to take them to a destination that they would reveal only after they were airborne.

At 10 p.m., nearly 18 hours after they had started their assault, the eight guerrillas herded their prisoners, who were now tied together in chain fashion and blindfolded, out of the building and into a gray German army bus.

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