To those who follow his activities closely, Abu Daoud is as much bumbler as mastermind - but a bumbler with effective friends in powerful places.
His arrest by Jordan four years ago, after a series of slapstick mishaps derailed his ambitious plot to seize the Jordanian Cabinet and hold it hostage, led to vicious attacks on embassies in Khartoum and paris by his Palestinian supporters.
He was sentenced to death by Jordan, but then turned free in response to strong pressure from a number of Arab and Third World figures. Even the Soviet Union, in an unusual appeal in the name of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, asked the King Hussein for clemency.
But while he was in Jordan, Abu Daoud gave Jordinian military authorities a throughgoing confession - a briefing, one source calls it - of his activities in Fatah and Black September that not only shed light on much that had been hidden in those Palestinian guerrilla groups but also implicated a number of associates. The confession was broadcast by Jordanian radio and television.
While some commandos might want to forget about this king of performance, Abu Daoud, since his release by France, has referred interviewers to his Jordinain confession to clarify points about his past and to buttress his contention that he played only a peripheral role in th 1972 Olympics massacre in Munich.
"A shrewd man in his position would never have gone into France as he did," one U.S. analyst who follows Middle Eastern affairs said.
Dressed in Saudi robes and a bearing a fake Saudi passport, Abou and 15-year-old Palestinian commando girly purporting to be his wife were stopped by Jordanian police as they drove to the Interior Ministry on a scouting trip preparatory to seizing the premier's office.
The first problem, he said, was that "my Saudi passport included the name of the wife and six children. The fact is that my 'wife' was a child, only 15 years old."
When they were taken to the security center for further questioning, Abu Daoud said, "my Czechoslavak-made revolver and its ammunition fell . . . to the floor when we alighted from the car. One of the soldiers saw it. "This complicated matters."
Two weeks after Abu Daoud's arrest in Jordan, Black September terrorists, in an operation named after him, Seized the Saudi Arabian embassy to Kartoum, Sudan, took hostage several guests at a diplomatic reception and demanded Abu Daoud's release. U.S. Ambassador Cloe Noel Jr.; his deputy George Curtis Moore, and a Belgian diplomat were murdered when Jordan refused.
In September 1973, terrorists seized the Saudi embassy in Paris and again demanded Abu Daoud's freedom. Jordan refused, but France allowed the terrorists to leave and drew a sharp rebuke from Saudi Arabia.
Later that month, after a meeting in Cairo with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Syrian President Hafez Assad, Hussein granted anmesties to 754 palestinian prisoners, including Abu Daoud, as a move toward Arab reconciliation.
In interviews in Algiers, where went after leaving France, and in his Jordanian confession, Abud Daoud admits to only a small role in the Munich attack. Sources here who are familiar with unpublished details from his Jordanian confession, however, refer to him as a chief planner of the attack but will not elaborate.
According to Abu Daoud's version, he was in Sofia, Bulgaria, in August 1972, a month before the Sept. 5 attack, buying Bulgarian arms for Fatah. Two terrorist leaders, Abu Iyad and Fahri Umari, met him in Sofia and outlined the planned attack.
"In order to complete this operation, Abu Iyad asked me to give him my Iraqi passport," Abu Daoud said. "He wanted to give this passport to Fahri Umari to use during the operation."
He and Umari flew to Libya, he gave Umari the Iraqi passport and, by Abu Daoud's published account, that was that until he "learned afterwards" details of what had happened in Munich. Sources in Washington say, however, that the major planning for the Olympics attack is believed to have been done in Libya during the time Abu Daoud was there.
Abu Daoud, 39, is a Jordanian Palestinian who has been a member since 1970 of Fatah's Revolutionary Council, the advisory governing body directly under the ruling Central Committee, But, Abu Daoud told the Jordanians, "normally the council's views are not taken into consideration."
He took a two-month intelligence course in Cairo in 1968 for Fatah and in March 1972 visited North Korea and China as a member of a Fatah delegation seeking Communist support.
Although he is widely identified as a leader of Black September, which has been accused of many of the most vicious of the Palestinian attacks, Abu Daoud, in his Jordanian confession, had another version.
"There is now such thing called Black September," he said. "Fatah announces its operations under this name so that Fatah would not appear as the direct executor of the operations."
Abou Doud was in Jordan at the time of the original Black September - September 1970 when King Hussein's forces threw out the Palestinian commandos after they tried to seize the government - but he seems to have been left behind in the excitement.
He was part of a supply committee, storing rations "for our seizure of power." When Hussein's troops drove out the commandos, Abu Daoud said. "I remained without duties until I left Jordan in May 1971.
"But I used to travel to Damascus and Beirut looking for an assignment."