Lillehammer - The Mission Israel and the Mossad Would Like to Forget

Updated: Jan 13

The Mossad has executed countless successful and inconceivable operations, most of them not even known to the wide public, but what happened on the evening of July 21st, 1973, is something everyone would rather be erased from the pages of Israel's history books.


Lillehammer is a little city in the south of Norway, that is mostly famous for hosting the 17th Winter Olympics in 1994. Well, in Israel it is more know for a different reason.

Prologue

After the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre, the Mossad was ordered to find each and every member of the Black September (the terrorist group behind the attack) leadership, and to have them killed. And so, it took a few months and many of them wound up dead in mysterious ways, some across Europe and some in Beirut, in operation Aviv Neurim (Spring of Youth). Yet, the Mossad couldn't seem to get their hands on the whereabouts of Ali Hassan Salameh, the head of the Black September terrorist organization.


The time has come

In July 1973, word finally got out. The mega terrorist was found in a small resort town in Norway called Lillehammer, around 165km north of Oslo. He was spotted receiving papers from a PLO member, but there was just one slight problem. The person who was mistakenly identified as Salameh was, in fact, a young Morrocan person named Ahmad Bushiki. After hearing the news, the Mossad quickly sent over members of the Keysaria Unit, who were to deal with the terrorist. Well, the person they thought was the terrorist.


On July 21, Bushiki and his pregnant wife got off the bus near their house, where he was welcomed with 14 deadly gunshots. The Mossad quickly left the country after the execution, not before some bystanders saw their car's license plate and gave it to the police.

The next day, when the other members of the unit went to return the car to the dealership, they were arrested by the policemen that were there waiting for them. Only after the arrest, they realized that the identity of their target was, in fact, a mistake. The police eventually apprehended six suspects, and they refused to admit they were members of the Mossad. Obviously.

The aftermath

The six went to trial several weeks after the incident, five of them were sentenced to between six months to five years in prison, and one of them was released for a lack of evidence. The trial was quite embarrassing for Israel, specifically for the Mossad. The Israeli-Norwegian relationship suffered a tremendous blow that took years to mend. All five of the prisoners were released after 22 months, and in 1996, the Israeli government transferred 283,000 dollars to Bushiki's family.


The ramifications

The Mossad admitted that the intelligence before the operation was poor, and endangered the fighters, the Mossad, and Israel's international ties. The trial revealed many of Mossad's MOs (methods of operation) in chasing terrorists across Europe, forcing it to completely change the way it worked. Prime Minister Golda Meir was forced to order the Mossad to stop its chases of Palestinian terrorists on European soil. Until Menahem Begin showed up. In 1979, after years that Salameh spent thinking he had outwitted the Mossad, his turn finally came. Under Begin's order, Salameh was killed in Beirut on January 22nd, when an inferno car blew up next to his car, killing him, his four bodyguards, and another four civilians.