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‘RFE/RL Will Continue To Be Heard’: Carlos the Jackal and The Bombing of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, February 21, 1981

‘Four of our employees are injured, our building is damaged, but RFE/RL will continue to be heard.’

Germany – The aftermath of a February 1981 terrorist bombing of the RFE headquarters in Munich. Communist secret police archives opened after 1989 indicate that the bombing was ordered by Romanian leader Ceausescu and organized by the terrorist Carlos.

By Richard Cummings


From the mid-1970s to his overthrow and execution in December 1989, Romanian Dictator Nicolae Ceausescu waged a vengeful war against the Romanian Broadcast Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Munich. His regime fought with intimidation, threats, and physical attack; the radios countered with the ‘truth’ in the programs broadcast to Romania.

Although there were various soviet bloc intelligence service plans over the years to bomb the headquarters of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Munich, there was only one physical attack: the bomb attack on February 21, 1981. This was one of the most politically sensitive, yet little-known operations of “Carlos the Jackal”: this was his only known American target. Carlos called his terrorist operations Tangos; this would be his Munich Tango.

The Attack

February 21, 1981, at 9:50 p.m., there was a huge explosion in the center of Munich that was heard throughout the city. A team of four Euro-terrorists, under the direction of the infamous “Carlos the Jackal” in Budapest, had just set off a powerful bomb, estimated to be about 30 pounds (c. 15 kilograms) of the Romanian-made explosive nitropenta.

Four Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty employees were seriously injured: Maria Pulda, Rudolf Skukalek and Allan Antalis, Czechoslovak Broadcast Service, and Ingeborg Eberl, telephone operator. Part of the building was in shambles. Damage to the building exceeded $2,000,000. This was the only direct attack on the RFE/RL headquarters building in the history of the radio station.

The bomb’s concussion caused extensive damage and terror in the immediate area. Windows were shattered in fifty percent of RFE/RL’s offices (more than 170) and also in apartment buildings more than one hundred yards (meters) away from RFE/RL.

Glen Ferguson, then president of RFE/RL, sent out a message to the staff the next morning. It read, in part, “Four of our employees are injured, our building is damaged, but RFE/RL will continue to be heard.”

Major international and West German media covered the Saturday night bomb attack against RFE/RL in the Sunday and Monday editions. Soviet and East European media also carried the story starting Sunday morning. West German television and radio began covering the story as of 11 pm Saturday night, and continued coverage throughout Sunday and Monday.

Although the evidence has long been there and the perpetrators identified, no one has been and, most likely, never will be prosecuted for this terrorist act. Carlos is in jail for two life terms in Paris. Of the four Euro-terrorists who were in Munich, Johannes Weinrich is in prison for life in Berlin, Bruno Brequet has disappeared (presumed dead), one of the Basque terrorists died in Cuba and the other was never identified. The Romanian general who ordered the attack died as did the Romanian intelligence officer, who coordinated the attack with Carlos.

RFE/RL is grateful to Richard Cummings for his extensive report on the bombing, Carlos the Jackal and The Last Tango in Munich, from which this text is excerpted. His complete article is here.