The attack was carried out on March 1, 1973. According to a declassified State Department document, eight "Black September Organization" terrorists seized the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Khartoum as a diplomatic reception honoring the departing United States Deputy Chief of Mission was ending.
After the takeover, the terrorists kidnapped US Ambassador Cleo Noel, his deputy George Curtis Moore, the two deputy ambassadors of Belgium and Jordan. In return for the freedom of the hostages, the terrorists demanded the release of various individuals, mostly Palestinian guerrillas, imprisoned in Jordan, Israel and the United States.
When the terrorists became convinced that their demands would not be met and after they reportedly had received orders from Fatah headquarters in Beirut, they killed the two United States officials and the Belgian Charge, sparing the life of the Jordanian envoy.
'Inimical to Palestinian interests'
US intelligence agencies managed to intercept a message from Arafat to the terrorists in Khartoum before the attack, prompting an urgent message to the embassy warning of the attack. Unfortunately, the message did not reach the embassy in time.
"The Khartoum operation was planned and carried out with the full knowledge and personal approval of Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and the head of Fatah," the document reads.
"Fatah representatives based in Khartoum participated in the attack, using a Fatah vehicle to transport the terrorists to the Saudi Arabian Embassy. Initially, the main objective of the attack appeared to be to secure the release of Fatah/BSO leader Muhammed Awadh (Abu Da'ud) from Jordanian captivity."
The document also estimates that one of the primary goals of the operation was to strike at the United States because of its efforts to achieve a Middle East peace settlement which many Arabs believe would be inimical to Palestinian interests.