Day of the jackal has come

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 August, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 August, 1994, 12:00am

THE capture of Illich Ramirez Sanchez is a welcome development in the fight against terrorism. Carlos the Jackal, as he is known, has been linked to some of the most bloody outrages of the past two decades. Even if the evidence linking him to some particular attacks is sketchy, a number of intelligence services has identified him as a key player in world terrorism: his appearance in a court of law is years overdue.

There is some scepticism about just how important he really was. His name has been linked to almost every terrorist outrage of the past 20 years, and he has been associated with the activities of many terrorist groups. But if he is convicted, the hope must be that he will not ever be freed. If he were guilty of just one of the crimes linked with his name, he would be undeserving of sympathy - and freedom.

It is interesting that Sudan, which has been linked to terrorist activities, should suddenly discover that Carlos was living in Khartoum. This is a reflection of changes in international relations following the end of the Cold War. Nations which once approved of, or sponsored, terrorism can no longer rely on the old Soviet Union for aid. They must mend their relations with the West.

Carlos may have been, to some extent, a creation of the Cold War but the salvoes he allegedly fired were not rhetorical. The ending of the Cold War is no reason for overlooking crimes of the period; indeed, new power relations make it likely terrorists will be hunted down.

Keeping him in custody may require courage, as his backers might employ threats and hostage-taking to help him. In the past, France has proved susceptible to threats but the publicity Paris has given to his capture seems to indicate firm resolve. The day of the jackal has come; he will spend it in court.