He was the founder of the Fatah Revolutionary Council (also known as the Abu Nidal Organization), formed after a split between Nidal and the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1974. The nom de guerre "Abu Nidal" means "father of struggle" in Arabic.
Little is known for certain of his early life. He was born in Jaffa to a family of farmers and following the creation of Israel he grew up in Nablus. He became a school teacher before joining the Ba'ath party and then PLO in 1967.
Abu Nidal and his organization planned and carried out attacks on behalf of several governments including those of Iraq, Libya and Syria. Operations attributed to the Abu Nidal Organization cover over twenty countries and 100 attacks, and include:
On August 19 2002 he was reported dead of gunshot wounds in his home in Baghdad. He was suffering from leukemia, and the Iraqi government has said he was also facing a charge of treason and was likely to be convicted. The cause of his death according to Iraq's foreign minister Tariq Aziz was a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The London paper Al-Sharq al-Awsat states that there were multiple gunshots and the death was a homicide carried out by Iraqi intelligence agents.
He was essentially mercenary in his activities. Although his ideology included the formation of a Palestinian state containing all of Israel, his targets included not only Israelis but also moderate Palestinians. He was commonly regarded as "the world's most dangerous terrorist" until the rise of Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda movement.
The Fatah Revolutionary Council is not the same as the Palestinian organization Fatah.