Sat, 27 Aug 1994

Carlos my captor, an Indonesian remembers

By Barry Dols

JAKARTA (JP): Carlos has finally made it to prime time.

Much of the world got its first glimpse of the seemingly omnipresent terrorist, whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, last week as he was being whisked into a Parisian courtroom.

Indonesian House of Representatives member H. Adimir Adin, however, counts among the few who have been confronted by the reality that is Carlos. He can prove it too. Carlos apparently doesn't shy away from giving autographs.

It was business as usual as noon approached on Dec. 21, 1975, at OPEC headquarters in Vienna, Austria. Representing the Economic Commission Board at the meeting, Adimir recalls that "we were so absorbed by the discussion that nobody heard the sound of gunfire outside the conference room."

The arrival of Carlos with four other heavily-armed uninvited guests quickly brought home the severity of the situation.

Survival instincts took over. "We all dove to the ground and lay flat on our stomachs using overturned tables as makeshift shields," Adimir said.

"For a moment my senses took leave of me. My body felt numb and I could hardly move my head. Minutes later when I calmed down I thought of my family back home, my wife, children and loved ones."

At this point Carlos took control. The 42 people in the conference room and the 30 others brought in from other parts of the building were searched for weapons and then divided into four groups.

Adimir remembers, "One by one we were ordered to stand up and state our nationality. Carlos' self-styled classifications split us up into OPEC staffers, neutrals (those from Indonesia, Nigeria, Gabon, Venezuela and Ecuador), friends (Iraq, Algeria, Libya and Kuwait), and enemies (Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates)."

Three other Indonesians were among the hostages: Dr. Sanger, Indra Kartasrasmita and Indraman Akman.


The long wait was just beginning for those being held inside the conference room.

Fortunately for the hostages, the tense problem of opening a line of communication to the outside world was solved by the chance arrival of the Iraqi charge d'affaires.

Adimir recalls "the atmosphere gradually becoming more familiar" as the terrorists negotiated to have their demands made public.

The inevitable calls to nature, more urgent due to the gravity of the situation, were permitted by the Carlos group.

Refreshment was harder to come by. The hostages had to take turns drinking tap water from the only available glass.

Adimir began passing the time by keeping a running diary as events unfolded.

Carlos, he noted, "began talking incessantly with the hostages, especially the ones from Venezuela (his native country)."

"He seemed well educated and spoke in a very charming way," smiled Adimir, adding that Carlos conversed fluently in English, Spanish, French and Arabic.

At one point, Carlos "carelessly put his gun down on a table." Needless to say, the hostages didn't exactly trip over one another trying to get at it.

Adimir confessed to feeling "a little bit worried" in the hours before the commandos' communique was broadcast over Austrian radio at 6:20 in the evening.

Ham sandwiches

Terrorists and hostages can't live on a diet of water, cigarettes and fear.

Food was ordered, and arrived in the form of ham sandwiches, a curious choice for a group of mostly Moslems, who are forbidden by their faith to eat pork.

The haram sandwiches were piled high on a table beside the friendlies. Then, according to Adimir, something strange happened. They quickly vanished.

While not partaking in the food frenzy, "I always try to be a good Moslem," Adimir laughed as he recalled the mysterious disappearance of the sandwiches.

Circumstantial evidence points to the Iraqis, Algerians, Libyans and Kuwaitis since they were being held next to the food.

Adimir, however, refuses to single out anyone. "Sometimes in Islam there are exceptions," he grins giving nothing away.

Exceptional times indeed.

The hostages, all powerful men in their own right, were not likely to crack under pressure.

"Each of the ministers began to pass the time in his own way, according to his mood, frame of mind and expectations," wrote Adimir.

"Saudi Minister Yamani yawned. The Gabonese minister sat with his legs stretched out on a chair. The Iranian delegation remained quiet and disconsolate."

At 10 p.m., the Hilton came to the rescue by sending along the buffet that had been prepared as the post-meeting banquet.

Adimir recalls "a late-night party of chicken, beef, and lamb, washed down with liquor and cigarettes."

The gunmen even pitched in with the clean up, he adds.


By then word had reached the group that the Austrian government would provide the commandos with a plane the next morning, as well as bus transport to the airport.

At midnight Carlos visited the Indonesian delegation and apologized for involving them in what he called "an operation whose main target was Arab countries who cooperate with the American capitalists."

Adimir remembers Carlos up close: "By the way he talked it seemed Carlos was a mature man. He knew of everything progressive, like the Bandung Conference and the statutes of OPEC. The man himself was a dandy."

Carlos even gave Adimir his autograph, which remains with him to this day.

That was how Adimir came to learn the identity of the commando leader.

Adimir drifted off into a fitful sleep at around 3 a.m., finally awakening at 5:50 a.m. to "a room in disarray, with people lying confusedly on the floor".

When the Mitsubishi bus drew up beside the OPEC building at 7 a.m., Adimir wasn't sure if he would be put on it or be freed in Vienna.

Luck was with him. The bus was unable to accommodate all the hostages. But Adimir had to endure some anxious moments aboard the bus before being asked to leave along with Indra.

As he made his way off the bus, Adimir asked Dr. Sanger if he could take his place in order to give the latter the chance to enjoy Christmas with his family.

Carlos would have none of that. "He grabbed me and said 'don't worry, he will be freed in a few hours,' and ordered me to step down."

In the event, the hostage drama ended 24 hours later in Algiers.

For Adimir Adin, 20 hours of mental agony provided him with his "most memorable experience" and a rare and valuable autograph to boot.