FBI agents are now gathering evidence about Arafat's culpability in a March 1, 1973, operation in which eight members of the Black September terrorist organization, part of Arafat's Fatah faction of the PLO, stormed the Saudi embassy in Khartoum, reportedly on Arafat's orders, taking U.S. Ambassador Cleo Noel, diplomat Charge d'Affaires George Curtis Moore and others hostage, and one day later, killing Noel, Moore and Belgian diplomat Guy Eid.
Two agents from FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., Bill McDermott and Kathleen Reed, recently flew to Portland, Ore., to interview James J. Welsh, the National Security Agency's Palestinian analyst at the time of the murders.
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Welsh has said he intercepted a transmission from Arafat involving an imminent operation in Khartoum, and charges the NSA has had tapes of Arafat ordering the executions, a story first reported by WND in 2001.
"They called me and said they are reopening an old murder investigation," Welsh told WND. "I met with the agents for several hours, gave them a detailed account of everything that happened, and handed over to them original copies of a lot of materials and correspondence I have accumulated over the years. They were supposed to return my things, but I'm still waiting."
Welsh says he detailed for the agents the communication he intercepted from Yasser Arafat, and how within minutes, the director of the NSA was notified and a decision was made to send a rare "FLASH" message – the highest priority – to the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum via the State Department warning of a possible attack.
But Welsh recalled the message didn't reach the embassy in time. Somewhere between the NSA and the State Department, someone decided the warning was too vague, and the alert was downgraded in urgency.
The next day, the Black September operation took place, and after 26 hours of intense negotiations – the gunmen demanded the freeing from Jordan of many Palestinians, including Abu Daoud, a leader of the Black September Organization; the release of Sirhan Sirhan, Robert Kennedy's assassin, from jail in California; and the liberation of "Palestinian women in prison in Israel" – the two U.S. diplomats were murdered.
Many have claimed that Arafat personally sent an order of execution to the terrorists via radio broadcast: "Why are you waiting? The people's blood in the Cold River cries for vengeance." "Cold River" was reportedly the code word for executing the captives. Supposed NSA recordings of that call have disappeared.
Arafat reportedly then ordered the eight gunmen to surrender peacefully to the Sudanese authorities. Two were released for "lack of evidence." Later, in June 1973, the other six were found guilty of murdering the diplomats. They were sentenced to life imprisonment, but released 24 hours later to the PLO.
During their trial, commander Salim Rizak, also known as Abu Ghassan, told the court: "We carried out this operation on the orders of the Palestine Liberation Organization and should only be questioned by that organization."
Sudanese Vice President Mohammed Bakir said after questioning the six: "They relied on radio messages from Beirut Fatah headquarters, both for the order to kill the three diplomats and for their own surrender Sunday morning."
Over the years, there have been reports the Israelis also had tapes of Arafat ordering the executions, and that Jerusalem provided copies to President Nixon.
Sources in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office told WND Israeli intelligence provided evidence proving Arafat's culpability in the murders to the U.S. State Department and White House in March 1973. Sharon also publicly stated in 1995 that Israel shared this evidence with the U.S.
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