Communist Czechoslovakia sheltered organiser of 1972 Munich attack

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The Czech newspaper Mlada Fronta Dnes revealed recently that communist Czechoslovakia had links to the Palestinian terrorist who masterminded the 1972 Olympics massacre. A recently declassified document described a 1978 visit to Prague by Abu Daoud, a Palestinian who later admitted organising the attack against Israeli athletes that left 18 people dead. But as Rob Cameron reports now, communist support for terrorist groups was widespread, as long as they shared the same political agenda.

The official German investigation into the Munich Olympics massacre provided little comfort to relatives of the dead athletes - the three terrorists who survived were never tried, and German police failed to track down the organisers.

Communist Czechoslovakia, however, had detailed knowledge of the whereabouts of the man behind the 1972 killings, Palestinian terrorist Abu Daoud. Recently declassified Interior Ministry files record a visit to Prague by Daoud in 1978, describing him as "the organiser of the armed action against Israeli sportsmen at the Olympic Games." The document says Daoud, travelling on a false passport, was a guest of the communist Krejci group, which supervised the country's "solidarity with African and Asian peoples". Journalist Tomas Pecina says communist Czechoslovakia offered support and shelter to many terrorist groups, as long as they shared a socialist agenda.

"The relationship between the communist regime and the communist world movement and terrorists around the world was very close in some cases. And despite the fact that the KGB archives are not yet available to the public, the archives of some other secret services, like the Czechoslovak StB, have shown that these services had their hands in many other cases."

Hand in hand with that support went an ambiguous public response to terrorist attacks on Western targets during the 1970s and 80s. The communist authorities, says Tomas Pecina, were keen to present terrorist acts by the IRA, ETA or Palestinian groups as part of a wider socialist struggle against repression and injustice.

"These terrorist acts, they were never very openly condemned, except in a couple of very extreme cases. It was always stressed that these people did it out of desperation, for a good cause. In some cases it was portrayed as part of a struggle which in the eyes of the communists was very legitimate. So I think the communist regime supported many terrorist acts around the world and it used them as part of its propaganda machinery."