1985 Rome and Vienna airport attacks

Rome and Vienna airport attacks

Aftermath in a fast food restaurant in the Leonardo da Vinci International Airport after the attack

Locations of the incidents in Rome, Italy and Vienna, Austria

Location Rome, Italy
Vienna, Austria
Date 27 December 1985
9:15 am (UTC+1)
Target Israeli targets in Leonardo da Vinci Airport (Rome) and Vienna International Airport (Vienna)
Attack type
Shootings, bombings
Weapons Assault rifles
Deaths 23 (including 4 terrorists)
Non-fatal injuries
139 (including 1 terrorist)
Perpetrators Abu Nidal Organization (purported)

The Rome and Vienna airport attacks were two major terrorist attacks carried out on 27 December 1985. Seven Arab terrorists attacked two airports in Rome, Italy, and Vienna, Austria with assault rifles and hand grenades. Nineteen civilians were killed and over a hundred others were injured before four of the terrorists were killed by El-Al Security personnel and local police, who captured the remaining three.

The attacks

At 08:15 GMT, four Arab gunmen walked to the shared ticket counter for Israel's El Al Airlines and Trans World Airlines at Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport outside Rome, Italy, fired assault rifles and threw grenades. They killed 16 and wounded 99, including American diplomat Wes Wessels, before three of the attackers were killed by El-Al security, while the remaining one, Mohammed Sharam, was wounded and captured by the Italian police.

Minutes later, at Schwechat Airport (Vienna International Airport) in Vienna, Austria, three terrorists carried out a similar attack. Hand grenades were thrown into crowds of passengers queuing to check in for a flight to Tel Aviv, killing two people instantly and wounding 39 others. A third victim died on 22 January 1986, of hand grenade wounds sustained in the attack. After the attack, the terrorists fled by car, and Austrian police gave chase. They killed one terrorist and captured the other two.

In all, the two strikes killed 19, including a child, and wounded around 140. Some contemporary reports claimed the gunmen originally intended to hijack El Al jets at the airports and blow them up over Tel Aviv;[1] others concluded that the attack on waiting passengers was the original plan and that the Frankfurt airport was meant to be hit as well.[2]


The attacks were first blamed on the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), but its leader, Yasser Arafat, denied the accusations and denounced the strikes. The PLO asserted that the attacks were intended to force Austria and Italy into severing ties with the Palestinians.[3]

Responsibility for the two attacks was later claimed by the Abu Nidal Organization (ANO) in retaliation for Operation Wooden Leg, the Israeli bombing of PLO headquarters in Tunis on 1 October 1985. Libya was accused, by the US, of funding the terrorists who carried out the attacks; although they denied the charges, they did praise the assaults. According to published reports, sources close to Abu Nidal said Libyan intelligence supplied the weapons and the ANO's head of the Intelligence Directorate's Committee for Special Missions, Dr. Ghassan al-Ali, organized the attacks. Libya denied these charges as well, notwithstanding that it claimed they were "heroic operations carried out by the sons of the martyrs of Sabra and Shatila."[4] Italian secret services blamed Syria and Iran.[5]

See also


  1. "Abu Nidal Organization (ANO) attacked Airports & Airlines target (Dec. 27, 1985, Austria)". Archived from the original on 25 March 2006. Retrieved 27 December 2005.
  2. Seale, Patrick. Abu Nidal: A Gun for Hire. Hutchinson, 1992, p. 244.
  3. Seale, Patrick. Abu Nidal: A Gun for Hire. Hutchinson, 1992, p. 246.
  4. Seale, Patrick. Abu Nidal: A Gun for Hire. Hutchinson, 1992, p. 245.
  5. "ITALY NOW LINKING SYRIANS TO ATTACK AT ROME AIRPORT (May 21, 1986, United States)". Retrieved 20 October 2016.

External links

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