Carlos the Jackal

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Ilich Ramírez Sánchez
File:Ilich Ramirez Sanchez.jpg
"Carlos" in a Paris courtroom in 2000[1][2]
Born (1949-10-12) October 12, 1949 (age 70)
Michelena, Táchira, Venezuela
Other names Carlos
Carlos the Jackal
Criminal penalty Life imprisonment
Criminal status Imprisoned
Spouse(s) Magdalena Kopp
Lana Jarrar
Isabelle Coutant-Peyre
Conviction(s) Murder

Ilich Ramírez Sánchez (pronounced: [ilitʃ raˈmiɾes santʃes]; born October 12, 1949), also known as Carlos the Jackal, is a Venezuelan terrorist currently serving a life sentence in France for the 1975 murder of an informant for the French government and two French counter-intelligence agents.[3][4] While in prison he was further convicted of attacks in France that killed 11 and injured 150 people and sentenced to an additional life term.[5][6]

A committed Marxist-Leninist, Ramírez Sánchez is commonly described as one of the most notorious political terrorists of his era.[7][8][9] When he joined the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in 1970, recruiting officer Bassam Abu Sharif gave him the code name "Carlos" because of his South American roots.[10] After several bungled bombings, Ramírez Sánchez achieved notoriety for the 1975 raid on the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) headquarters in Vienna, which killed three people. This was followed by a string of attacks against Western targets. For many years he was among the most wanted international fugitives. Carlos was dubbed "The Jackal" by The Guardian after one of its correspondents reportedly spotted Frederick Forsyth's 1971 novel The Day of the Jackal near some of the fugitive's belongings.[11]

For his part, Ramírez Sánchez denied the 1975 killings, saying they were orchestrated by Mossad, the Israeli secret service, and condemned Israel as a terrorist state. During his trial in France in 1997, he said, "When one wages war for 30 years, there is a lot of blood spilled—mine and others. But we never killed anyone for money, but for a cause—the liberation of Palestine."[12]


Early life

Ramírez Sánchez, son of Marxist lawyer José Altagracia Ramírez Navas and Elba María Sánchez, was born in Michelena, in the Venezuelan state of Táchira.[13] Despite his mother's pleas to give their firstborn child a Christian first name, José called him Ilich, after Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, while two younger siblings were named "Lenin" (born 1951) and "Vladimir" (born 1958).[14] Ilich attended a school in Caracas and joined the youth movement of the national communist party in 1959. After attending the Third Tricontinental Conference in January 1966 with his father, Ilich reportedly spent the summer at Camp Matanzas, a guerrilla warfare school run by the Cuban DGI near Havana.[15] Later that year, his parents divorced.

His mother took the children to London, where she studied at Stafford House College in Kensington and the London School of Economics. In 1968, José tried to enroll Ilich and his brother at the Sorbonne in Paris, but eventually opted for the Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow. According to the BBC, it was "a notorious hotbed for recruiting foreign communists to the Soviet Union" (see active measures).[16][17][18] He was expelled from the university in 1970.

From Moscow Ramírez Sánchez travelled to Beirut, Lebanon, where he volunteered for the PFLP in July 1970.[19] He was sent to a training camp for foreign volunteers of the PFLP on the outskirts of Amman, Jordan. On graduating, he studied at a finishing school, code-named H4 and staffed by Iraqi military, near the Syria-Iraq border.[19]


On completing guerrilla training, Carlos (as he was now calling himself) played an active role for the PFLP in the north of Jordan during the Black September conflict of 1970, gaining a reputation as a fighter. After the organisation was pushed out of Jordan, he returned to Beirut. He was sent to be trained by Wadie Haddad.[20] He eventually left the Middle East to attend courses at the Polytechnic of Central London (now known as the University of Westminster), and apparently continued to work for the PFLP.

In 1973, Carlos conducted a failed PFLP assassination attempt on Joseph Sieff, a Jewish businessman and vice president of the British Zionist Federation. On 30 December Carlos called on Sieff's home on Queen's Grove in St John's Wood and ordered the maid to take him to Sieff.[21] Finding Sieff in the bathroom, in his bath, Carlos fired one bullet at Sieff from his Tokarev 7.62mm pistol, which bounced off Sieff just between his nose and upper lip and knocked him unconscious; the gun then jammed and Carlos fled.[21][22][23] The attack was announced as retaliation for Mossad's assassination in Paris of Mohamed Boudia, a PFLP leader.

Carlos admits responsibility for a failed bomb attack on the Bank Hapoalim in London and car bomb attacks on three French newspapers accused of pro-Israeli leanings. He claimed to be the grenade thrower at a Parisian restaurant in an attack that killed two and injured 30. He later participated in two failed rocket propelled grenade attacks on El Al airplanes at Orly Airport near Paris, on January 13 and 17, 1975.

According to FBI agent Robert Scherrer one MIR and one ERP member were arrested in Paraguay in June 1975. These would have had Carlos phone number in Paris. Paraguayan authorities would then have handed over the information to France.[24]

On June 27, 1975, Carlos's PFLP contact, Lebanon-born Michel Moukharbal, was captured and interrogated by the French domestic intelligence agency, the DST.[citation needed] When two unarmed agents of the DST interrogated Carlos at a Parisian house party, Moukharbal revealed Carlos's identity. Carlos then shot and killed the two agents and Moukharbal,[25] fled the scene, and managed to escape via Brussels to Beirut.

OPEC raid and expulsion from PFLP

From Beirut, Carlos participated in the planning for the attack on the headquarters of OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) in Vienna. On December 21, 1975, he led the six-person team (which included Gabriele Kröcher-Tiedemann) that attacked the meeting of OPEC leaders; they took more than 60 hostages and killed three: an Austrian policeman, an Iraqi OPEC employee and a member of the Libyan delegation. Carlos demanded that the Austrian authorities read a communiqué about the Palestinian cause on Austrian radio and television networks every two hours. To avoid the threatened execution of a hostage every 15 minutes, the Austrian government agreed and the communiqué was broadcast as demanded.

On December 22, the government provided the PFLP and 42 hostages an airplane and flew them to Algiers, as demanded for the hostages' release. Ex-Royal Navy pilot Neville Atkinson, at that time the personal pilot for Libya's leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, flew Carlos and a number of others, including Hans-Joachim Klein, a supporter of the imprisoned Red Army Faction and a member of the Revolutionary Cells, and Gabriele Kröcher-Tiedemann, from Algiers.[26] Atkinson flew the DC-9 to Tripoli, where more hostages were freed, before he returned to Algiers. The last hostages were freed there and some of the terrorists were granted asylum.

In the years following the OPEC raid, Bassam Abu Sharif, another PLFP agent, and Klein claimed that Carlos had received a large sum of money for the safe release of the Arab hostages and had kept it for his personal use. Claims are that the amount was between US$20 million and US$50 million. The source of the money is also uncertain but, according to Klein, it was from "an Arab president". Carlos later told his lawyers that the money was paid by the Saudis on behalf of the Iranians and was "diverted en route and lost by the Revolution."

Carlos left Algeria for Libya and then Aden, where he attended a meeting of senior PFLP officials to justify his failure to execute two senior OPEC hostages – the finance minister of Iran, Jamshid Amuzgar, and the oil minister of Saudi Arabia, Ahmed Zaki Yamani. His trainer and PFLP-EO leader Wadie Haddad expelled Carlos for not shooting hostages when PFLP demands were not met, thus failing his mission.[27]

After 1975

Manuel Contreras, Gerhard Mertins, Sergio Arredondo and an unidentified Brazilian general traveled to Tehran in 1976 to offer a collaboration to the Shah regime to kill Carlos in exchange for a large sum of money. It's not known what actually happened in the meetings.[24]

In September 1976, Carlos was arrested, detained in Yugoslavia, and flown to Baghdad. He chose to settle in Aden, where he tried to found his own Organization of Armed Struggle, composed of Syrian, Lebanese, and German rebels. He also connected with the Stasi, East Germany's secret police.[28] They provided him with an office and safe houses in East Berlin, a support staff of 75, and a service car, and allowed him to carry a pistol while in public.[28]

From here, Carlos is believed to have planned his attacks on several European targets, including that on the Radio Free Europe offices in Munich in February 1981. On February 16, 1982, two of the group—Swiss terrorist Bruno Breguet and Ramírez Sánchez's wife Magdalena Kopp—were arrested in Paris, in a car containing explosives. Following the arrest, a letter was sent to the French embassy in The Hague demanding their immediate release. Meanwhile, Carlos unsuccessfully lobbied the French government for their release.

In retaliation, France was struck by a wave of terrorist attacks, including: the bombing of the Paris-Toulouse TGV train on March 29, 1982 (5 dead, 77 injured); the car-bombing of the Libyan newspaper Al-Watan al-Arabi in Paris on April 22, 1982 (1 dead, 63 injured); the bombing of the Gare Saint-Charles in Marseille on December 31, 1983 (2 dead, 33 injured), and the bombing of the Marseille-Paris TGV train (3 dead, 12 injured) on the same day.[29] In August 1983, he also attacked the Maison de France in West Berlin, killing one man and injuring twenty-two.[28] Within days of the bombings, Carlos sent letters to three separate news agencies claiming responsibility for the bombings as revenge for a French air strike against a PFLP training camp in Lebanon the previous month.

Historians' examination of Stasi files, recently accessible after German reunification, demonstrates a link between Ramírez Sánchez and the KGB, via the East German secret police. When Leonid Brezhnev visited West Germany in 1981, Ramírez Sánchez did not undertake any attacks, at the request of the KGB. Western intelligence had expected activity during this period.[28]

With conditional support from the Iraqi regime and after the death of Haddad, Ramírez Sánchez offered the services of his group to the PFLP and other groups. His group's first attack may have been a failed rocket attack on the Superphénix French nuclear power station on January 18, 1982.

These attacks led to international pressure on East European states that harbored Ramírez Sánchez. For over two years, he lived in Hungary, in Budapest's second district known as the quarter of nobles. His main cut-out for some of his financial resources, such as Gaddafi or Dr. George Habash, was the friend of his sister, Dietmar Clodo, a known German terrorist and the leader of the Panther Brigade of the PFLP. Hungary expelled Ramírez Sánchez in late 1985, and he was refused sanctuary in Iraq, Libya and Cuba before he found limited support in Syria. He settled in Damascus with Kopp and their daughter, Elba Rosa.

The Syrian government forced Ramírez Sánchez to remain inactive, and he was subsequently seen as a neutralized threat. In 1990, the Iraqi government approached him for work and, in September 1991, he was expelled from Syria, which had supported the American intervention on the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. After a short stay in Jordan, he was accorded protection in Sudan where he lived in Khartoum.

Western accounts long claimed Ramírez Sánchez was a KGB agent. Some attacks may have been attributed to him for lack of anyone else to claim credit. His own boasts about probably nonexistent missions have further confused the issue.

Arrest and imprisonment

Carlos the Jackal was incarcerated in La Santé Prison in Paris (center).
Carlos the Jackal has been incarcerated in Clairvaux Prison since 2006.[30]

The French and US intelligence agencies offered a number of deals to the Sudanese authorities, and Sudan cooperated. In 1994, Carlos was scheduled to undergo a minor testicular operation in a hospital in Sudan.[31] Two days after the operation, Sudanese officials told him that he needed to be moved to a villa for protection from an assassination attempt and would be given personal bodyguards. One night later, the bodyguards went into his room while he slept, tranquilized and tied him, and took him from the villa.[32] On August 14, 1994, Sudan transferred him to French agents of the DST, who flew him to Paris for trial.

He was charged with the 1975 murders of the two Paris policemen and of Moukharbal and was sent to La Santé Prison to await trial. In 1996, a majority of the European Commission of Human Rights rejected his application related to the process of his capture.[33]

The trial began on December 12, 1997 and ended on December 23, when he was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.[34][not in citation given] In 2006 he was later moved from La Santé to Clairvaux Prison.[30][35]

In 2001, after converting to Islam,[36] Ramírez Sánchez married his lawyer, Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, in a Muslim ceremony, although he was still married to his second wife.[37]

In June, 2003, Carlos published a collection of writings from his jail cell. The book, whose title translates as Revolutionary Islam, seeks to explain and defend violence in terms of class conflict. In the book, he voices support for Osama bin Laden and his attacks on the United States.

In 2005, the European Court of Human Rights heard a complaint from Ramírez Sánchez that his long years of solitary confinement constituted "inhuman and degrading treatment". In 2006 the court decided that Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment) had not been violated; however, Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) had been. Ramírez Sánchez was awarded €10,000 for costs and expenses, having made no claim for compensation for damage.[30]

New trials

In May 2007, anti-terrorism judge Jean-Louis Bruguière ordered a new trial for Ramírez Sánchez on charges relating to "killings and destruction of property using explosive substances" in France in 1982 and 1983. The bombings killed eleven and injured more than 100 people.[38] Ramírez Sánchez denied any connection to the events in his 2011 trial, staging a nine-day hunger strike to protest his imprisonment conditions.[39] The trial, which had been expected to last six weeks, began on November 7, 2011, in Paris.[36] Three other members of Ramírez Sánchez's organization were tried in absentia at the same time: Johannes Weinrich, Christa Margot Fröhlich, and Ali Kamal Issawi.[36] Germany has refused to extradite Weinrich and Fröhlich, and Issawi, a Palestinian, "is reportedly on the run."[36] Ramírez Sánchez continues to deny any involvement in the attacks.[36] On December 15, 2011, Ramírez Sánchez, Weinrich and Issawi were convicted and sentenced to life in prison; Fröhlich was acquitted.[40] Ramírez Sánchez appealed against the verdict and a new trial began in May 2013.[41] He lost his appeal on 26 June 2013 and judges in a special anti-terrorism court upheld his life sentence.[42] In October 2014, Sanchez was also charged over an attack on a drugstore in Paris in September 1974.[43]

Popular culture references


  • Aline, Countess of Romanones (née Aline Griffithǐ), whose first three books were memoirs of her work with the OSS, wrote the novel, The Well Mannered Assassin (1994), about Carlos the Jackal. The Countess knew Carlos as a charming playboy in the 1970s.
  • In Tom Clancy's novel, Rainbow Six, terrorists attempt to have Carlos freed from prison by staging a terrorist attack on an amusement park in Spain.
  • John Follain wrote Jackal: The Secret Wars Of Carlos The Jackal (1998), published by Orion (ISBN 978-0752826691)
  • Charles Lichtman wrote the novel, The Last Inauguration, in which Carlos is hired by Saddam Hussein to carry out a terrorist attack on the Presidential Inauguration Ball.[citation needed]
  • Carlos the Jackal features prominently as the antagonist in the first and third books of Robert Ludlum's fictional Bourne Trilogy, which depicts Carlos as the world's most dangerous assassin, a man with international contacts that allow him to strike efficiently and anonymously at locations anywhere on the globe. Bourne is sent to trap Carlos.
  • Spanish journalist Antonio Salas wrote his 2010 book El Palestino (The Palestinian), following five years of infiltration as a Palestinian-Venezuelan terrorist, during which he did an extensive research on Carlos Ramirez, met Ramirez's kin, and directly corresponded with Ramirez in prison.[44]
  • Colin Smith, reporter for The Observer, wrote the authoritative biography Carlos: Portrait Of A Terrorist (1976), published by Andre Deutsch (ISBN 0 233 968431).
  • Billy Waugh's nonfiction book Hunting the Jackal (2004 ), reveals the CIA operation in Sudan to locate and photograph Carlos, which led to his arrest in Khartoum.
  • David Yallop's book, To the Ends of the Earth, the Hunt for the Jackal (1993), is a detailed account of Yallop's attempts through the 1980s to unearth the true story of Carlos, as he attempts to secure an interview with him.


Poster of TV Movie "Carlos"




  • In the six-part TV series, Whoops Apocalypse (1982), the character of Lacrobat (John Cleese) was a parody of Carlos the Jackal. In the film version of the series, released in 1986, actor Michael Richards played Lacrobat.
  • Daniel Leconte, the producer of Carlos (2010), also produced a two-episode documentary about Carlos called The Carlos Years (1995).


  • In the Frederick Forsyth Presents episode, "Death Has a Bad Reputation", Carlos (Tony Lo Bianco) is spotted in Rome and killed.
  • Carlos was profiled in the In Search of... episode: "Carlos, the Most Wanted Man in the World" (1979).
  • In the television pilot-film, The SEAL (1981), Ron Ely played a mysterious secret agent whose wife had been killed, some years earlier, aboard a jetliner time-bombed by Carlos the Jackal.
  • In Deutschland 83, the season 1 episode "Cold Fire" presents a fictional version of the events of the 1983 Maison de France bombing, resulting in Carlos's apparent death or the apparent death of a terrorist in Carlos's group.

Video games

  • In James Bond 007: Agent Under Fire, one of the player's adversaries is a female assassin named Carla The Jackal. As a further allusion, the mission where Bond confronts her is called "Night of the Jackal".


  1. «Schakal Carlos» schafft es auf die Kinoleinwand, Mitteldeutsche Zeitung, July 4, 2010. Photo is attributed to DPA.
  2. 'Carlos the Jackal' goes on trial in France. By Kim Willsher. November 7, 2011. Los Angeles Times.
  3. "Venezuela's Hugo Chavez defends 'Carlos the Jackal'". UK: BBC News. November 21, 2009. Retrieved May 22, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Communists want ‘Carlos the Jackal’ repatriated
  5. "Carlos the Jackal convicted for 1980s French terrorist attacks". The Daily Telegraph. London. December 16, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Carlos the Jackal given another life sentence for 1980s terror attack". The Guardian. London. December 15, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Clark, Nicola. "Ilich Ramírez (Carlos the Jackal) Sánchez". The New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Ilich Ramirez Sanchez (Carlos the Jackal) 1949". Retrieved August 14, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Feared Terrorist Mastermind Goes On Trial". Huffington Post. November 6, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Bassam Abu-Sharif and Uzi Mahnaimi. The Best of Enemies: The Memoirs of Bassam Abu-Sharif and Uzi Mahnaimi, 1995. ISBN 978-0-316-00401-5
  11. Steve Rose (October 23, 2010). "Carlos director Olivier Assayas on the terrorist who became a pop culture icon". The Guardian. London. Retrieved May 12, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "'Carlos The Jackal' convicted, sentenced to life in prison". CNN.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Follain, John (1998). Jackal: The Complete Story of the Legendary Terrorist, Carlos the Jackal. Arcade Publishing. p. 1. ISBN 1-55970-466-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Follain (1998), p. 4.
  15. Follain (1998), p. 9.
  16. New York Magazine – Nov 7, 1977
  17. Encyclopedia of Terrorism, Harvey W. Kushner, p. 321
  18. "Carlos the Jackal", BBC profile, December 24, 1997
  19. 19.0 19.1 Bassam Abu-Sharif and Uzi Mahnaimi. The Best of Enemies: The Memoirs of Bassam Abu-Sharif and Uzi Mahnaimi, 1995. ISBN 978-0-316-00401-5 pp 78–79
  20. Bassam Abu-Sharif and Uzi Mahnaimi. The Best of Enemies, p 89
  21. 21.0 21.1 Valentine Low (February 12, 2008). "House where Carlos the Jackal first struck faces the bulldozer". Evening Standard.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. Christopher Andrew (2009). The Defence of the Realm. Penguin. p. 616. ISBN 978-0-14-102330-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. William Cash (January 8, 2010). "Elizabeth Sieff's mission to put a low price on the high life". Evening Standard.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. 24.0 24.1 González, Mónica (August 6, 2009). "El día en que Manuel Contreras le ofreció al Sha de Irán matar a "Carlos, El Chacal"". (in Spanish). CIPER. Retrieved August 11, 2015.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. "27 juin 1975, trois morts rue Toullier à Paris. Un carnage signé Carlos. L'ancien terroriste est jugé à partir d'aujourd'hui pour des faits qui lui ont valu une condamnation par contumace en 1992", Liberation Newspaper, France.
  26. Death On Small Wings ISBN 1-904440-78-9.
  27. Bassam Abu-Sharif and Uzi Mahnaimi. The Best of Enemies, p164
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 28.3 "Rescued from the shredder, Carlos the Jackal's missing years", The Independent, October 30, 2010. Retrieved October 31, 2010
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 "Press release issued by the Registrar: GRAND CHAMBER JUDGMENT RAMIREZ SANCHEZ v. FRANCE". HUDOC. European Court of Human Rights. 04/07/2006. Retrieved 14 August 2014. Check date values in: |date= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. Mayer, Jane, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals, 2008. p. 37.
  32. Follain (1998), pp. 274–276.
  33. EComHR admissibility decision on application no. 28780/95
  34. "Carlos The Jackal Ends His 20-day Hunger Strike", Orlando Sentinel. November 24, 1998. Retrieved on May 20, 2010.[not in citation given]
  35. "Carlos the Jackal faces new trial", BBC. May 4, 2007. Retrieved on May 20, 2010.
  36. 36.0 36.1 36.2 36.3 36.4 Willsher, Kim (November 7, 2011). "'Carlos the Jackal' goes on trial in France". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 8, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  37. "My Love for Carlos the Jackal." The Age. March 25, 2004. Retrieved on May 20, 2010.
  38. Carlos the Jackal faces new trial.
  39. "Cold War Mastermind Carlos the Jackal on Trial in France". Fox news. UK. November 7, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  40. Associated Press. "Paris court sentences Carlos the Jackal to life in prison for 4 deadly attacks in 1980s". Washington Post. Retrieved December 15, 2011. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  41. Perpétuité requise en appel contre Carlos pour quatre attentats
  42. "CARLOS THE JACKAL LOSES APPEAL IN FRENCH BOMBINGS". AP. Retrieved June 26, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  43. Le terroriste Carlos renvoyé aux assises pour l'attentat du drugstore Saint-GermainLibération, 07 October 2014
  44. "El Palestino". Antonio Salas. Retrieved August 14, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Carlos: Portrait of a Terrorist by Colin Smith. Sphere Books, 1976. ISBN 0-233-96843-1.
  • Jackal: The Complete Story of the Legendary Terrorist Carlos the Jackal by John Follain. Arcade Publishing, 1988. ISBN 1-55970-466-7.
  • To the Ends of the Earth by David Yallop. New York: Random House, 1993. ISBN 0-679-42559-4. This book was also published under the name Tracking the Jackal: The Search for Carlos, the World's Most Wanted Man.
  • Encyclopedia of Terrorism by Harvey Kushner. SAGE Publications, 2002.

External links