Michael Libal

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Michael Libal (born 25 April 1941; † 17 November 2012) was a German diplomat.


His father was DPA’s Southeast Europe correspondent Wolfgang Libal (b. May 21, 1912 in Prague; † 2008 in Vienna).[1]

Michael Libal studied history, political science, sociology and wrote as a dissertation: Japans Weg in den Krieg. The Foreign Policy of the Konoye Cabinet 1940/1941 (published by Droste, Düsseldorf, 1971). He was accredited at the embassies of the Federal Republic of Germany in Moscow and Rome.

At the time of the hijacking of the “Landshut” aircraft in 1977, the ambassadorial post in Mogadishu was deserted; Libal worked there as interim chargé d’affaires. On 17 October 1977, he held talks at Mogadishu airport with the leader of the hijackers, Zohair Youssif Akache alias Captain Martyr Mahmud, on behalf of the Minister of State Hans-Jürgen Wischnewski, who was present on the spot. Libal was in the control tower and spoke by radio with the cockpit of the Lufthansa Boeing. He was instrumental in the stalling tactics that ultimately led to the hostage rescue and repeatedly presented the hijacker with the false news that German terrorists had taken off in a plane in Germany and were en route to Mogadishu or had already arrived.

“Mr. Libal told him [Mahmud] that the West German government was bowing to his demands. He said the Baader-Meinhof Gang prisoners would be released and taken to Mogadishu, but conceded that it would take some time to accomplish this. The kidnapper became upset at the delay, and the following exchange ensued:

Mahmud: How far away is that?
Libal: I don’t know.
Mahmud: Well, I know, and you should hurry up and find out. “[2]

In reality, this development of the conversation, which lasted for about seven hours, served to wait for nightfall: shortly after midnight, the GSG 9 of the Federal Police intervened, killed Mahmud and freed the hostages.[3][4]

In the early 1990s, during the dissolution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Michael Libal headed the Southeastern Europe Department in the Foreign Ministry of the Federal Republic of Germany.[5] From 2001 to 2005 he was ambassador in Prague.

Michael Libal was married.


  • Japan’s Way to War. The Foreign Policy of the Konoye Cabinets 1940-41. Düsseldorf 1971.
  • Limits of persuasion. Germany and the Yugoslav Crisis, 1991-1992. 1997
  • The Balkan Dilemma. An Interpretation of the Crisis. In: Harvard International Review. Vol. 18, No. 2, Spring 1996
  • Germany and the Yugoslav Crisis, 1991-1992. Praeger, 1997
  • Njemacka politika i jugoslavenska kriza 1991-1992.
  • Basic Questions of the Yugoslav Crisis from a German Perspective.
  • Yugoslavia and the Serbian Challenge 1991/1992.
  • Reform politics and system competition. Gorbachev’s attitude.
  • The Road to Recognition. Germany, the EC and the disintegration of Yugoslavia 1991
  • Ethnic Conflict in the Balkans and in the Caucasus. In: Journal of Southeast European and Black Sea Studies. Vol. 2, No. 2, May 2002.

Individual references

  1. ÖBV Events: Wolfgang Libal – Witness on the fence of time.Archived fromOriginal24 July2008; retrieved 7 May 2017.
  2. New York Times, 19 October 1977, p. A15, translated from the American
  3. The 97-minute English recording of the voice radio can be found in several ARD sound archives, including the WDR under the call number 10022100. According to Libal, there is a complete audio recording of the Americans, but he does not know its origin. Presumably, representatives of the US intelligence service were on site in Mogadishu.
  4. Libal’s role after the hostage rescue in the World of 30 July 2009
  5. Christian A. Nielsen: Review of Michael Libal: Limits of Persuasion. Germany and the Yugoslav Crisis, 1991-1992. Praeger, Westport, Conn. and London 1997, ISBN 0-275-95798-5