Real stories from the world of espionage and special operations



  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,610MI6 Agent
    edited November 2019
    The Lillehammer Affair - when Mossad killed the wrong man

    The summer of 1973 a Moroccan-born waiter was killed in front of his pregnant wife in Lillehammer, a town in southern Norway best know for the 1994 Winter Olympics and the TV comedy "Lillyhammer".
    Why did this happen? We have to go back to the year before. During the Olympics in Munich eleven Israeli athletes were held hostage and killed by members of the Palestinian terrorist organisation Black September. The Israeli government decided to retaliate and ordered the Mossad to kill the men involved in the Munich massacre. This was called Operation Bayonet or Wrath of God. This part of the story is shown in Steven Spielberg's movie "Munich"(2005), co-starring a little known British actor named Daniel Craig.

    From the terror attack in Munich:


    The Mossad followed a suspected member of Black September to Lillehammer where he was seen meeting another Arab. Some believe black September knew their courier was under surveilance and led the Mossad on a wild goose chase. The man the Israelis were led to was Ahmed Bouchikhi, a Moroccan-born waiter and cook. Ahmed Bouchikhi was a saboteur in the Algerian war of independence against the French when he was 17 and lived in France for some years before he moved to Norway to get work. In 1973 he was married to Norwegian woman named Torill Larsen who was pregnant with his child.
    But Mossad believed they had found Ali Hassan Salameh, the Black September Chief of Operations and likely the man behind the Munich Massacre. Slameh was known as The Red Prince, a good-looking and fashionably dressed womanizer. He had military training from Cairo and Moscow, was married to a former Miss Universe and later became founder of PLO's commando and special operations unit Force 17. Many belive he was under the protection of the CIA because he shielded American targets in Lebanon. In 1979 he was killed by a car bomb set off by a British-born Mossad agent know under the name "Erica Chambers". The Red Prince's funeral ceremony was attended by Yasser Arafat and about 20,000 Palestinians.

    But in 1973 the Mossad were convinced Bouchikhi was really Salameh. They sent an assassination squad of up to 15 people to Lillehammer. Two of them had just been recruited to Mossad because they knew Danish and Swedish, but they were not trained agents. No-one from the Wrath of God-teams had neve been caught and they figured Lillehammer would be an easy place to work, an inocent town far from conflicts and war. But Lillehammer in 1973 was a difficult place tp operate under the radar for just those reasons. People noticed cars not belonging in the neighbourhood, especially if someone just sat in parked cars for hours. People looked after each other and told the police if they saw anything strange. The agents also had darker skin than almost anyone in town. After being under surveilance for two days Ahmed Bouchikhi and Torill went to the cinema to see ""Where Eagles dare". After the movie they took the bus home. Just as the bus left, two men stepped out of a white Mazda and shouted "Hallo!". The couple turned to look and Bouchikhi was shot twelve times with the assassins' silenced pistols. The neighbour saw the whole thing.

    A police reconstruction of the killing


    Only four police officers were on duty that night, but they managed to put up check points quickly. Crime was low and the officers usually investigated break-ins and traffic violations. Drugs was a new problem, and the police assumed the murder was somehow linked to drugs. The police didn't catch the white Mazda, but a police officer noticed a beautiful woman in another white car staring at him, and he wrote down the registration number. A chain of events caused by good police work, an alert public and inexperienced and perhaps cocky Mossad agents lead to the arrest of six of them.

    An experienced police officer picked the Swedish-speaking woman for the first questioning, correctly guessing she would be easy to break. She told him she was a member of a Mossad surveilance team. This was possibly what she had been told and she actually believed it. The other agents soon confessed too. A safe house owned by the Israeli embassy was searched. The game was up. The woman who had caught the police officer's eye at the check point also got a lot of attention from the press. She claimed to be a photo journalist from Canada, but she turned out to be was Sylvia Raphael. Born in South Africa by non-Jewish parents Raphael had made Israel's cause her own. After her Mossad training she was clasified the "combatant", the highest rank of agent and perhaps comparable to NoC (Non-official cover) agents in the CIA. She was elegant, charming, multi-lingual and later a legend among Mossad agents. During her questioning after Lillehammer she suddenly started speaking Norwegian with the distinctive Telemark dialect, a language she didn't know beforehand. It turned out her prison guard was from Telemark. That's how good her ear for languages was. One of the police officers who questioned her later called her "Jane Bond".


    The trial got a lot of attention, but the agents only got short sentences. They didn't even serve their time, all six were released after about a year for "medical reasons". The fresh air outside of prison must have worked, all of them regained their health as soon as they returned to Israel. Perhaps it was because Israel still had a lot sympathy in Norway, perhaps it was because they weren't the trigger men. Sylvia Rahael got married to her lawyer Annæus Schjødt and moved to Israel with him. Some speculate the Norwegian Secret Service (POT) knew and aproved of the Mossad operation in Lillehammer. POT did know more than they let on. In the 1990's a document from 1973 was found in a POT safe. It linked Mike Harari to the murder in Lillehammer, something the regular police and the judge weren't told. Harari was the leader of the Wrath of God program.

    Lillehammer was a major embarrasment for Mossad and israel. They had killed the wrong person and they got caught doing it. "Lillehammer" sounds like "bitter night" in Hebrew, and the Lillehammer affair is know as Bitter Night in Mossad. In 1994 the Norwegian government tried to broker a peace between the Palestinians in what is known as the Oslo Process. The Norwegian negotiators told the Israelis it was time to admit their guilt in the death of Ahmed Bouchikhi. Israel never officially admitted they were behind the murder, but the Israeli government did agree to pay compansation to his widow and his two children. In 2014 Mike Harari finally admited his role in the Lillehammer affair.

    The victim Ahmed Bouchikhi

  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,610MI6 Agent
    edited January 2019
    Liutenant Alessandro Tandura - the first man to parachute behind enemy lines


    Parchuting behind enemy lines has become one of the usual ways to infliltrate special forces and agents into enemy territory. But how many of you knew this technique was first used in world war one?

    The first man in history to do this was Liutenant Alessandro Tandura, an Italian officer in the Arditi units. The Arditi ("The Daring") was a type of shock troops, the most elite formations in the Italian army and comparable to the stormtroops of Germany and Austria-Hungary. These troops were the forerunners of the commandos of WWII, but they were normally not parachute trained. Arditi often wore medival-style armour and used the dagger as a symbol of their aggressive style.


    Alessandro Tandura jumped out of a bomber plane piloted by an RAF captain and an Canadian RAF observer. The paratrooper sat at the back of the plane, on a trapdoor that would be opened by the pilot and linked with a 4 m long rope to the parachute that was hanging under the wings. Parachutes and parachuting was in its infancy in WWI, but observers in balloons and airships and German pilots were issued them.




    In the night between the 9th and 10th of August 1918 Luitenant Tandura jumped into the Veneto region in Northern Italy, at the time under Austro-Hungarian occupation. He spent three months behind enemy lines. He was taken prisoner twice, but escaped both times. He gathered inteligence and passed it back to Italian lines by carrier pigeons. He also contacted Italian officers stranded behind enemy lines and organised them into a resistance. Alessandro Tandura returned safely to Italian held territory and lived until 1937. Four more Arditi officers were dropped behind enemy lines before the war ended.

  • ChriscoopChriscoop Belize Posts: 10,449MI6 Agent
    Exceptionally interesting 24.
    It was either that.....or the priesthood
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,610MI6 Agent
    Thank you very much! Feedback is always apriciated, and you are very kind. :)

    Here is a podcast about Diana Rowden who was an SOE agent in France in WWII:

  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,610MI6 Agent
    The same podcast channel also made an episode about female agents in the SOE:

  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,610MI6 Agent
    edited February 2019
    I'm pretty sure one of the members of AJB007 said his grandfather flew missions for SOE, but I can't for the life of me remember who. Sorry :#
    But to make up for it I'm posting a podcast about Geoffrey Rothwell, the last of the pilots who flew SOE agents. Rothwell was the widower of SOE agent Diana Rowden who was the topic of an earlier post in this thread. He died at 97 in 2017, before the podcast was made. This is his orbituary;



  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,610MI6 Agent
    Nazi Germany tried to assassinate Josef Stalin in 1944 in what is called Operation Zeppelin. Since most sources are Soviet we mostly get the Russian version or point of view, but it's still a great story that even involves SMERSH:

    The two intended assassins Petr Tavrin and Lidia Shilova.

  • Asp9mmAsp9mm Over the Hills and Far Away.Posts: 7,475MI6 Agent
    My grandfather on my mothers side flew Lysanders. Which is partly why I collect SOE equipment and memorabilia.
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,610MI6 Agent
    Please forgive my bad memory. I hope you enjoyed listening to the podcasts about Geoffrey Rothwell, then. :)
  • ppw3o6rppw3o6r Great BritainPosts: 2,268MI6 Agent
    Asp9mm wrote:
    My grandfather on my mothers side flew Lysanders. Which is partly why I collect SOE equipment and memorabilia.
    My Grandfather on my Mother's side "met" Lysanders!, usually in the dead of night in muddy fields & if you didn't know the current code ....Bugger! :o
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,610MI6 Agent
    Please tell more about this!

    I heard a story linked to "SOE Airways" in the first village I worked in. During the war there was a clandestine radio transmitter station. someone in the village informed on them to the Germans and both the agents and the family that supplied them with food and information had to be exfiltrated in a hurry. A seaplane came from the UK during the night and picked them up in such a hurry the youngest son in the family got his arm broken. The family came back from the UK after the war. Both the younger members of the family and the informant lived in the village when I was there, and everyone knew who the informant was.
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,610MI6 Agent
    I wrote some stories in seperate threads that would fit here before I started this thread. I wonder, would it be good idea to gather them here? I really don't know.if anyone has an opinion, please post.

    I'm sure I'm not the only member in this forum who knows good espionage and covert operations stories from the real world. A link to an article, video or podcast is fine. It's fun for everyone :)
  • ppw3o6rppw3o6r Great BritainPosts: 2,268MI6 Agent
    Number24 wrote:
    Please tell more about this!

    I heard a story linked to "SOE Airways" in the first village I worked in. During the war there was a clandestine radio transmitter station. someone in the village informed on them to the Germans and both the agents and the family that supplied them with food and information had to be exfiltrated in a hurry. A seaplane came from the UK during the night and picked them up in such a hurry the youngest son in the family got his arm broken. The family came back from the UK after the war. Both the younger members of the family and the informant lived in the village when I was there, and everyone knew who the informant was.

    That's a difficult question to answer. My Grandfather did not like to speak about what he did during the war. Lysanders unlike conventional aircraft were able to touch down & more importantly take off again in small confined areas. My Grandfather said he would receive an instruction to meet an aircraft at a specific location at a specific time to collect a package. The package would identify itself by for example Polar Bear. If Polar Bear did not use that phrase ....Bang! :(
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,610MI6 Agent
    It's sometimes easy to forget real humans lived those espinage stories we like to hear about. You have every reason to be proud of your grandfather.
  • Asp9mmAsp9mm Over the Hills and Far Away.Posts: 7,475MI6 Agent
    edited February 2019
    Both of my grandfathers and my father were the same. It was a time of gentlemen when the OSA was something you took to your heart rather than just a contract. I think many people don’t understand the danger involved at this time, they were literally living hour to hour on luck and nerve and operational security, most of which were out of their control.

    I’ve been pondering this for sometime since Donk and I first spoke of this. It’s amazing to think that the possibility of our grandfathers meeting 60 years before we did.
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,610MI6 Agent
    OSA -what is that?
  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,574MI6 Agent
    edited February 2019
    Number24 wrote:
    OSA -what is that?

    OSA is an abbreviation of the Official Secrets Act, or rather in this time period of the Second World War, a series of Acts passed in 1911, 1920 and 1939. They need to be read together as the 1920 and 1939 Acts amended the OSA 1911. There has since been an OSA 1989 as well. Those involved in secret intelligence work had to sign the Act and be bound by its provisions, and breaching the Act brought the sanction of criminal law.
    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,610MI6 Agent
    Ah … thank you.

    ASP, I'm curious about what your grandfathers did during the war. What can you tell us?
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,610MI6 Agent
    Englandspiel: The Deadly WW2 Spy Game

    By BBC Witness History:

    In 1942, a Dutch secret agent was captured by German military intelligence in the Netherlands. The agent's name was Haub Lauwers and he worked for the Special Operations Executive, a secret organisation set up by the British to wage a guerrilla war against the Nazis in Europe. So began, the Englandspiel, the England Game, a German counter-intelligence operation that led to the capture and deaths of dozens of Dutch agents.

    The story is told by eyewitnesses who survived the war.

  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,610MI6 Agent
    The Umbrella Assassination

    The Bulgarian dissident was attacked with a poisoned umbrella in London

    Told by eye witnesses to the BBC:

  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,610MI6 Agent
    The story of the Soviet surveilance space station that actually had a machine cannon! Moonraker gets a mention :007)

  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,610MI6 Agent
    The Germans also thought about mirrors in Space. At first it was envisioned to light up dark areas of of Earth, but during the war it was suggested using the mirror to burn ships at sea or entire cities. Does it sound familiar?

  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,610MI6 Agent
    edited October 2019
    Unit 29155 - a modern day SMERSH?


    According to an article in The New York Times, Russia's military inteligence service GRU has a unit that specializes in subversion, sabotage, assassinations and generally destabilising Europe. The unit employs combat veterans from Russias more or less secret wars and is called Unit 29155. (it's behind a paywall: If you, like me, aren't a regular reader of NYT you can read the article on the unit in The Independent:

    Here is the begining of the article:

    First came a destabilisation campaign in Moldova, followed by the poisoning of an arms dealer in Bulgaria and then a thwarted coup in Montenegro. Last year, there was an attempt to assassinate a former Russian spy in Britain using a nerve agent. Though the operations bore the fingerprints of Russia’s intelligence services, authorities initially saw them as isolated, unconnected attacks.
    Western security officials have now concluded that these operations, and potentially many others, are part of a coordinated and ongoing campaign to destabilise Europe, executed by an elite unit inside the Russian intelligence system skilled in subversion, sabotage and assassination.

    The group, known as Unit 29155, has operated for at least a decade, yet Western officials only recently discovered it. Intelligence officials in four Western countries say it is unclear how often the unit is mobilised and warn that it is impossible to know when and where its operatives will strike.

    The GRU emblem

  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,610MI6 Agent
    edited December 2019
    Gangster, secret agent, murderer and the king's friend.


    Norwegian Special Operations Executive (SOE) agents were usually young men from good family backgrounds. Johannes Andersen was different. He was born in 1898 in Oslo in a poor family. His father was often away at work. His mother suffered from physical and mental illness and took refuge in religion. When she discovered Johannes was swearing, playing poker and perhaps stealing offerings in the church she sent him to a youth correction center to «drive the devil out of him».
    Johannes spent most of his childhood and youth in orphanages and youth correction centers, a very unhappy experience. He called it "pre-school for prison". Conditions were harsh. He was sent to Bastøy island in the Oslo fjord. People who have seen Michael Moore's «Where to invade next» know the place as perhaps the most humane prison in the world, but back then it was one of the most brutal youth correctional facilities in the country. They called it Devil's Island.

    [img] Bastøy guttehjem, foto Berg & Høeg.jpg[/img]

    When one of the boys broke the rules he was punished by having to stand naked in the hallway all night. The hallway was unheated and the temperature outside was -25 celsius, -13 Fahrenheit. The boy cought tuberculosis and died within a few days. One of the few things Johannes had to look forward to was the packages his mother sent him. The packages contained white cheese, a favourite of his. In eastern Norway they call white cheese "Gulost" ("Yellow cheese") so his friends called him "Gulosten". The name stuck and he was known as Gulosten the rest of his life. It was while he was at Bastøy he was called to the director's office who bluntly told the boy: «Your mother died a week ago and was buried two days ago.» Johannes reacted by trashing the office. He was placed in the dark cellar and told he wouldn't get any food until he said sorry. Johannes was burning with sorrow and rage, and after a week the director had to give in and give Gulosten food and a bed.

    Prohobition era smugglers


    "Gulosten" still on the run!"


    Johannes Andersen was twenty uears old in 1918 when the sale of strong alcohol was outlawed. He became a smuggler and ran fast boats from Germany to Norway filled with booze and sometimes cocaine. The price of alcohol in Norway could be twenty times the cost of buying it in Germany, so they made a lot of money. Johannes got caught several times, but his reputation grew among criminals and in the press. When prohibition ended in 1923 he became a burglar. Gulosten took many chances, made money, got caught and broke out again. He became a celebrity criminal and the headline "Gulosten escapes again!" was often used. One he escaped from the courtroom because everyone focused on the judge reading his sentence!
    In 1936 he met Ruth Johanne Nilsen and married her. Ruth was the great love of his life.

    In 1940 Germany invaded Norway. The resistance contacted Johannes early on because of his experience in smuggling and hiding from the police. He said yes, and again he was willing to take risks. Once he stole classified papers by turning up at the police station and claiming he was the messenger. The police chief put the documents in his hands with the words "Take care, those are important papers!" In spite of this work people started gossiping that Johannes Andersen was a nazi. This rumour really got to him, so much that he put an advert in a nazi newspaper saying that he was «a sinner, but not a nazi!"

    In 1941 the Gestapo found illegal newspapers and a pistol in his carpenter's shop. Raymond Colberg, a fellow smuggler from the prohibition had turned informant and betrayed Andersen. Gulosten got several of his teeth knocked out during the «interrogation» before spending year in prison in Germany.
    When he was released from prison Gulosten had the Gestapo after him, so it was decided he had to be evacuated to Sweden. But the resistance had decided Colberg was too dangerous to live, and Andersen was the obvious person to assassinate Colberg.
    Gulosten asked his attorney,of all people, to get him a gun. The attorney had a Colt 45 that had belonged to the famous polar explorer, scientist, diplomat, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Fridtjof Nansen.( The gun was handed in over to the career criminal by the wife of one of Oslo's best known attorneys in a dark street

    Reenactment of the assassination of Raymond Colberg


    Ruth lured the informant into a trap and Gulosten shot him. The resistance leadership criticised him for not pulling the teeth and gutting the corpse to avoid identification and make sure it sank in the fjord, as if they spoke from experience. But this was actually the first ever assassination the resistance ordered, sources don't list any other assassinations until the next year. Now Johannes Andersen had to flee the country. He escaped to Sweden and was allowed to jump the queue to get a seat on the very sought-after Stockholm-London flights. In the UK he joined Company Linge, the main Norwegian SOE unit. While most Linge-men were in their twenties or even younger, Andersen was 44 years old. He was noticed for his age as well as his reputation as a notorious criminal, some of his fellow agents didn't even know his name and just called him Gulosten for the rest of the war.

    Again his criminal background became an asset. After the training was over Andersen parachuted back into Norway with three other agents. Operation Bittern was meant to help train and equip a resistance group, but mainly it was an assassination squad. Gulosten was meant to be the main hit man because of his background and ruthlessness. Andersen was given a list of 62 targets. The Bittern team was also given some unusual equipment including morphine syringes, fifteen bottles of poison, three boxes filled with rags soaked in ether, eight poisonous pills, a burglary kit and handcuffs. There is some controversy about the Bettern operastion. The 62 names on the hit list were cleared by SOE, but not by the resistance in occupied Norway. The list included informers and torturers, but also famous nazis such as members of Quisling's "cabinet". The resistance felt killing some of those people would lead to brutal reprisals against the civilian population. There is some controversy on how many on that list, if any at all, were actually killed. A few years ago I was at a birthday party and I made conversation with the woman sitting next to me. I don't remember how the topic came up, but she told me Gulosten assassinated her grandfather, dismembered him and threw the body parts in the river. Strange table talk, I know.

    Missions were hightly prized among Company Linge members. Most of the time they trained and presented plans for possible missions to the SOE leadership only to be rejected, so many were envious of the old celebrity criminal who got a job in Norway right after basic training. There was also a conflict of interest between SOE and the Norwegian resistance. The SOE was created to, in Churchill's words, "set Europe ablaze". The resistance wanted to gather intelligence and build an underground army to be ready for when the Germans surrendered or they had to be thrown out by the allies. The resistance really didn't like assassinations and sabotage bombings that lead to a backlash against them or even executions of civilian hostages. As a result of this Operation Bittern was canceled and Andersen had to return to Britain.

    In the article in this link you can see the first page of the report written about Operation Bittern. "Finally, they were to likvidate several prominent Quislings and retire to Sweden":

    There he made a new and unlkely friend, the exiled Norwegian King Håkon VII. The king liked to meet people who were different, and Gulosten was about as different you could get from the king's normal circle. Johannes Andersen had been a die hard monarchist since when he was just seven years old and his father took him to see the the royal family arrive for the first time to the recently independent Norway. This was one of the few happy childhood memories he had of his father.

    Gulosten didn't settle in company Linge and was moved to the exiled Norwegian Navy's motor torpedo boat (MTB) unit on Shetland. MTBs were small, fast boats armed to the teeth with torpedoes.
    Their job was to cross the North Sea at night, hide under a camouflage net next to an island and scout for enemy ships from land. Torpedoes were used to sink the enemy ship and sometimes survivors were killed with a machine gun, something Andersen disliked. Then the MTB had to find somewhere else along the coast to hide or return to Britain. Mine fields were sometimes crossed by going full speed Ahead right through them and hoping the boat was past them by the time the mine exploded or the MTB simply jumped over the mines. This was a fast-packed and rough service that fitted Andersen well. During his service on the MTB Gulosten got word that his wife Ruth had been arrested for her part in the assassination of the informant back in 1942. Ruth had been tortured to death by the Germans.



    MTB crewmen on the lookout for German ships to sink.


    Andersen behind a gun on the MTB.


    Two MTBs hiding under camouflage nets somewhere on the Norwegian coast.


    After the war ended the Norwegian forces in Britain were tasked with demobilizing the German forces in Norway. The crew of his MTB were ordered to a small village on the west coast to guard the German POWs there. One evening Gulosten got drunk and barged into a room where German officers were held. He started yelling at them, clearly agitated after five years of war and particularly the brutal murder of his wife. Gulosten ended up killing two officers with his submachine gun. Naturally he was arrested for killing prisoners, but in spite of strong evidence he wasn't charged. Why was he released? Gulosten was a man with many dark secrets, including assassinations ordered by Norwegian authorities. He also got backing from the royal family. They couldn't interfere officially, but Queen Maud's lady-in-waiting sent a letter to Gulosten's lawyer.

    After his release he lived a quiet life as a carpenter. Gulosten was invited to the castle many times, he was on King Haakon's Christmas gift list and he was asked to make several pieces of furniture for his majesty. Johannes Andersen died in 1970.

    The aging Johannes Andersen reading his biography in front of a portrait of King Haakon.

  • 00730073 COPPosts: 965MI6 Agent
    Great read, thank you. It is the unusual men that thrive in the unusual times.
    "I mean, she almost kills bond...with her ass."
    -Mr Arlington Beech
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,610MI6 Agent
    That 's true.
    I've wondered if the woman I spoke to was the grandaughter of Raymond Colberg? I don't remember her name and I didn't know the story in any detail at the time, but she was roughtly the right age. The resistance's comment's about cutting the body up could have merged into family legend and the fjord could have merged into a river in the same way.
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 35,974Chief of Staff
    That was very engrossing, N24. Thanks!
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,610MI6 Agent
    edited November 2019
    Thanks. I didn't even know there were gangsters in Norway at that time before I started reading about him.
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,610MI6 Agent
    A very good documentary about the Special Operations Executive in France during WWII:

  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,610MI6 Agent
    "Blind man's bluff" - a documentary about submarines and espionage during the cold war.

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