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Four Palestinians hijack a Lufthansa airliner and demand the release of 11 imprisoned members of Germany’s Baader-Meinhof terrorist group, also known as the Red Army Faction. The Red Army Faction was a group of ultra-left revolutionaries who terrorized Germany for three decades, assassinating more than 30 corporate, military, and government leaders in an effort to topple capitalism in their homeland.
The Palestinian hijackers took the plane on a six-country odyssey, eventually landing at Mogadishu, Somalia, on October 17, after shooting one of the plane’s pilots. Early the next morning, a German special forces team stormed the aircraft, releasing 86 hostages and killing three of the four hijackers. Only one of the German commandos was wounded. The Red Army Faction’s imprisoned leaders responded to the news later that day by committing suicide in their jail cell, in Stammheim, Germany.
History's Craziest Plane Hijackings
International air travel is almost a century old, and in that time, hundreds of flights have been commandeered, most often with some sort of generic political goal in the mind of the hijacker(s). Some of these incidents, however, were less "organized terrorist plot" and more "what will that crazy coyote do to catch the roadrunner this time?"
One may think that taking over a multimillion-dollar machine filled with passengers flying thousands of feet in the air would require skill, planning, and intelligence, or at the very least sobriety. One would be hilariously wrong.
Among the many attempts to take airplanes and their passengers hostage, there are individuals notable less for their audacity and more for their utter lack of forethought. Religious fanatics and political extremists motivated by a homicidal ideology would concern any flyer, but spare some room in your list of air-passenger worries for the incompetent, the greedy, and the drunk.
A long-awaited return to Germany
The years haven't been kind to the Landshut, perhaps the most famous Boeing 737-200 in Germany's history. It is currently rusting away at a "cemetery" for airplanes at the Fortaleza International Airport in Brazil. But now officials want to take the plane apart, transport the pieces to Germany and restore it at the Dornier Museum, close to Lake Constance.
Landshut returns to Germany 40 years after hijacking
2. Air France Flight 139 Wilfried Bose and Brigitte KuhlmannWilfried Bose
An Airbus A300 carrying 246 passengers and crew of 12 took off from Tel Aviv, Israel to conduct Air France Flight 139. There were 58 other passengers waiting to board at the Athens airport, and they included 4 hijackers, 2 from the Palestine Front of Liberation of Palestine ”œ External Operations, PELP-EO and 2 from the German Revolutionary Cells identified as Wilfried Bose and Brigitte Kuhlmann. After refueling at Benghazi, Libya and releasing a sick woman, the plane arrived at Entebbe Airport in Uganda. The hijackers demanded the release of 40 Palestinians held in Israel and 13 detainees from Kenya, France, Switzerland, and West Germany, and threatened to kill the hostages in case their demands were not met. Uganda’s President Idi Amin supported the hijackers. The hijackers kept the hostages captive for one week in the transit hall of the Entebbe Airport. An Israeli task force, under the command of Yonatan Netanyahu, freed the hostages. All seven hijackers were killed. The Israeli Commander Netanyahu too was killed in this counter-hijacking attack. About 40 Ugandan Army soldiers were killed, and 11 Ugandan Mig-17 fighter planes were destroyed. William Stevenson’s 90 Minutes at Entebbe is an enlightening army classic.
German Commandos save Lufthansa Flight 181
Thursday, October 13, 1977, began as just another routine trip for the crew of Lufthansa Flight 181, as the Boeing 737 departed the island of Palma de Mallorca bound for Frankfurt Germany. Onboard, 86 passengers and five crew members went about their business, while the coast of mainland Europe slipped by below them. Little did they know that it would take an ordeal to eventually reach their destination.
Some 30 minutes into the flight, two men and two women wearing Che Guevera T-shirts rose from their seats brandishing pistols and hand grenades, while shouting commands to the passengers. They called themselves Commando Martyr Halime. Their leader, a Palestinian with the alias ‘Martyr Mahmud‘, forced his way into the cockpit and ordered the co-pilot to join the passengers.
Jurgen Schumann, the pilot, listened as Mahmud told him to set course for Cyprus. Schumann countered saying they didn’t have enough fuel and would have to land in Rome first.
Siegfried Hausner Commando, a faction of the German pro-communist terrorist organization known as the Red Army Faction, had allied themselves with the hijackers and demanded the release of 10 RAF compatriots from a German prison, along with two Palestinians held in Turkey. In addition, they wanted 15 million dollars in exchange for the lives of the passengers. Germany began negotiations, and at 5:45 p.m., the jet lifted off from Rome without clearance and headed for Cyprus.
On the ground in Cyprus, a representative from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) arrived and attempted to negotiate the hostages’ release. Mahmud yelled at him over the radio and the man eventually gave up. At 10:50 p.m., the aircraft departed Cyprus and found itself being denied landing rights in Beirut, Baghdad, Damascus, and Kuwait. The only remaining airport was Bahrain, which they received word was closed. Schumann informed them they had to land again because of low fuel. A flight controller relented and they touched down at 1:52 a.m., only to have troops surround them, then withdraw after Mahmud held a gun to the co-pilot’s head and threatened to kill him. They refueled and left Bahrain, this time for Dubai.
Dubai ordered the runways blocked with vehicles, but as the plane made a low pass, Schumann pleaded with them to let them land as they once again were at their fuel limit. The vehicles, at last, raced away and they touched down in the morning light.
The terrorists ordered food and water to be brought in and the garbage to be removed. Seizing on the opportunity, Schumann proceeded to throw cigarette stubs out the hatch which informed the Germans on-site as to the number of terrorists. The information made its way to the Dubai authorities, who in turn gave an interview to journalists. The terrorists found out about it and Mahmud threatened to kill Schumann if refueling didn’t begin. What the terrorists didn’t know is that the Germans belonged to a unit that had arrived in Dubai shortly after Flight 181’s landing. The unit was led by a 48-year-old Oberleutnant( Lieutenant Colonel) named Ulrich Wegener, the man who had founded and commanded Grenshutzgruppe 9 (Border Guard Group 9), better known as GSG-9, Germany’s police counter-terrorism unit.
Read Next: GSG-9 Saves Flight 181
GSG-9 was created after the German police’s bungling of the 1972 Munich Olympics, in which Palestinian terrorists slaughtered Israeli hostages on a runway tarmac while being engaged by ill-trained sharpshooters. Determined not to repeat the past, Germany decreed the creation of a police counter-terrorism unit soon thereafter on April 17, 1973, GSG-9 was born.
In Dubai, the unit was accompanied by two British Army Special Air Service (SAS) members, Barry Davies and Alistair Morrison. There, they received permission to assault the plane and even practiced on a 737 a short distance from flight 181. However, to their surprise, the Dubai government later permitted the flight to depart, and the jet traveled to Yemen where the worst fears became a reality. Mahmud permitted Schuman to check the plane over on the tarmac. The pilot left and attempted to contact the Yemeni authorities who sent him back, only to be executed by Mahmud in front of the passengers. Ordered to take off, the co-pilot was told to head for Mogadishu, Somalia.
After the arrival in Mogadishu, Schumann’s body was thrown on the tarmac. The captors bound the hostages and sprinkled Schnapps wine spirits over them saying that they would ‘burn better’ once they blew up the plane the next day. At 4:00 p.m., negotiators reestablished contact, notifying the terrorists that the prisoners would be released but that they needed more time. The deadline was extended to 2:30 a.m., October 18th.
Moments before the terrorists throw out the dead pilot.
It had been four days since the hijacking. The Germans decided that it must end. Operation Fire Magic, the assault plan formulated with the help of the two SAS, was again underway. Soon, as night fell, a blacked-out Boeing 707 touched down and taxied toward the rear of the Lufthansa plane.
Wegener and his 29 men along with Davies and Morrison, all dressed in casual attire, checked their weapons: MP5 submachine guns with mounted flashlights, and pistols. They crept both underneath the rear and to the left side of the plane carrying ladders. A rear hatch opened near the tail and operators entered, ready to shut off the power.
Suddenly a huge explosion boiled up a hundred yards in front of the plane. The Somalis had started a fire to distract the terrorists. After a few seconds passed the signal was given to cut the power.
“I threw a stun grenade over the wing and another over the cockpit,” Davies recounted.
Brilliant flashes thundered over the plane.
Read Next: Entebbe hostage rescue - 40 years later
Men sprang up the ladders jettisoning the twin hatches and swarmed for entry. Lights flashed on one of the female hijackers at the back and a quick burst jolted her body to the deck. The team rushed over her yelling “Heads Down!” Lights crisscrossed the aisle freezing on a male terrorist a few meters ahead.
“The number 3 terrorist was coming down the aisle with two hand grenades in his hand,” Wegner said.
His body was torn by 9mm rounds and the two grenades detonated in a dull explosion.
“One of the [s]tewardesses was slightly wounded, and that was it,” he added.
The Germans then moved toward the cockpit. Mahmud threw open the door and fired a pistol. An MP5’s muzzle flashed, and he slumped to the ground. They motioned for the passengers to exit the plane and they fled through every opening they could to the safety of the tarmac. The last passenger was out when the team found the fourth hijacker coming out a closet and shot her.
The assault lasted only five minutes. Apart from Schumann’s death, no other hostages died during the hijack, and as a result of the assault, only one hostage was wounded. Three of the four terrorists were killed, with one of the female hijackers surviving her wounds. One German team member was slightly wounded.
Since that fateful night of October 17, 1977, Operation Fire Magic has been studied time and again by the world’s counter-terrorism units as a textbook takedown of a hijacked airliner.
GSG-9 continues to covertly participate in missions the world over.
This article was previously published by SOFREP and Mike Perry 03.08.2012
EgyptAir hijacker arrested and identified hostages safely released
WATCH: Former Fatah official, 'Do we need to hijack your planes to make you care?'
The 1960s and 1970s saw a large number of hijackings carried out by Palestinian terrorist groups. El Al Israel Airlines quickly developed a reputation for its stringent airline safety. The first and last successful hijacking of an El Al aircraft took place in 1968.
The hijackings during the period included the following:
1968: El Al Flight from Rome to Tel Aviv turns into a hair-raising ordeal in Algeria
On July 23, 1968, El Al flight 426, en route from Rome to Tel Aviv, was hijacked and flown to Algeria. Originally scheduled to depart Rome on the afternoon of July 22, engine problems delayed the flight's departure and in the end, there were only 38 passengers on board – seven of them El Al employees or their family members – in addition to a crew of 10. Shortly after takeoff, two of the three hijackers burst into the cockpit with guns. The hijackers were members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which had been founded in 1967 by George Habash.
The plane landed in Algiers, Algeria, where the aircraft and its passengers became captives of Algerian officials, starting a more than month-long ordeal for many of the passengers and crew. The 23 non-Israeli passengers were released first. On July 27, the 10 remaining women, passengers, crew, as well as three children, were set free. But the remaining 12 Israeli men (seven crew and five passengers, two of them airline employees) remained prisoners of the Algerian government until September 1, more than 40 days later. They were released following an international aviation boycott of Algeria and the release by Israel of 16 Palestinian prisoners.
A patrol from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine on patrol east of the Jordan River, 1969. Thomas R. Koeniges / LOOK Magazine
1970: Nearly simultaneous hijackings of five planes
One set of hijackings that captured particular attention around the world was the plot by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine to commandeer five planes, four bound for New York and one for London. On September 6, the hijackers, who demanded the release of Palestinians in Israeli jails, managed to take control of three planes and force them to land at Dawson's Field, a remote former British airstrip in Jordan. The planes were operated by TWA, Swissair and BOAC, the predecessor to British Airways. A fourth plane, a Pan Am aircraft, was flown to Cairo and blown up after the passengers disembarked.
The fifth aircraft was an El Al flight from Tel Aviv to New York with a stop in Amsterdam. The two hijackers, a Nicaraguan American man and a Palestinian woman, Leila Khaled, attempted to take over the plane after it took off from Amsterdam. The El Al pilot refused to accede to the demands of the hijackers. The male hijacker was shot by an onboard sky marshal and later died of his injuries while Khaled was overpowered. The plane landed at Heathrow airport in London.
Norman Shanks, a former director of airport security at Heathrow, told the New York Times that following the coordinated series of hijackings, the international aviation community took action to prevent hijackings.
The hijackers were led by so-called Captain Mahmoud, who was later identified as a notorious international terrorist, Zohair Youssef Akache. He ordered the aircraft captain to fly to Fiucimino airport in Rome, where the airliner was refueled.
From Italy, the airliner set off eastwards and landed at Larnaca in Cyprus at 2038 by local time. Here, Captain Mahmoud demanded that the aircraft be refueled again, or he would blow it up, the first of many threats to use explosive devices. After refueling, the airliner took off and overflowed various Middle East countries.
Permission to land at Beirut was denied, and the runaways were blocked, so it was taken on to Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, where the same thing happened. It was flown on to Dubai, where, despite being refused permission to land, the crew was forced to do so for lack of fuel.
Hijacking of Lufthansa Flight 181: The route of hijacked airplane (Photo: XY)
At one point in Dubai, the airliner lost power. The temperature inside rose to over 120 degrees F (49 degrees C) many of the passengers, some quite elderly, became very distressed. While here, the crew managed surreptitiously to signal that there were four hijackers.
On Sunday, October 16, the airliner suddenly took off, only 40 minutes before the first deadline for blowing it up. And once again, it was refused permission to land in Oman and arrived over Aden airport with sufficient fuel for another 10 minutes flying. Despite warnings from air traffic control, the aircraft was brought down safely on the taxi track without permission.
The execution of the Lufthansa pilot
By now, conditions inside the aircraft were terrible, and Captain Mahmoud was very nervous, acting in an increasingly unpredictable and unstable manner. Jurgen Schumann, the Lufthansa pilot, was allowed to leave the airliner to check the undercarriage and disappeared for a few minutes. When he returned, he was taken to the first-class cabin and made to kneel on the floor Captain Mahmoud then executed him with a shot in the head, killing him instantly, directly due to Schumann’s earlier, successful effort to feed information about the hijackers to authorities.
The next morning the co-pilot, Jurgen Vietor, took off and flew the airliner to Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital. There, German government spokesmen contacted the hijackers and said they were prepared to release 11 terrorists held in jail and fly them to Mogadishu Captain Mahmoud postponed his deadline to 0145 hours the next morning (October 18).
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Entebbe raid, (July 3–4, 1976), rescue by an Israeli commando squad of 103 hostages from a French jet airliner hijacked en route from Israel to France. After stopping at Athens, the airliner was hijacked on June 27 by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Red Army Faction (a West German radical leftist group) and flown to Entebbe, Uganda, where they were joined by additional accomplices. At Entebbe, the hijackers freed those of the 258 passengers who did not appear to be Israeli or Jewish and held the rest hostage for the release of 53 militants imprisoned in Israel, Kenya, West Germany, and elsewhere. In response, Israel on July 3 dispatched four Hercules C-130H cargo planes carrying 100–200 soldiers and escorted by Phantom jet fighters. After flying some 2,500 miles (4,000 km) from Israel to Uganda, the Israeli force rescued the hostages within an hour after landing. All seven of the militants were killed, and 11 MiG fighters supplied to Uganda by the Soviet Union were destroyed the Israelis lost one soldier and three hostages during the operation. On the return trip, the Israeli planes met an awaiting hospital plane and refueled at Nairobi, Kenya. The success of the Entebbe raid substantially boosted Israeli morale.
Law Professor Noura Erakat Seems to Be Saying Palestinians Put Themselves on Map Through Terrorism
Noura Erakat is an assistant international law professor at George Mason University and the niece of PA negotiator propagandist Saeb Erekat. And like uncle, she is an Israel hater who plays loose with the truth.
A few days ago she tweeted the following in response to this Washington Post article.
I had been trying to think what Erakat meant by “Palestinians put themselves on the map – literally” from 1968-88. She is referring to some way the palestinians paved the way, from 1968, towards their 1988 Declaration of Independence, which was subsequently acknowledged by United Nations General Assembly Resolution 43/177.
The answer, my friends, is blowin’ in the wind up in the skies.
Among the many children of the Six-Day War, the most frightening is international terrorism. Of course, terrorism, including Palestinian terrorism, predated 1967, but the war changed its scope, scale, and very nature. Before the war, Palestinian terrorists struck at targets in Israel, often in cooperation with neighboring states. After the war, the Palestinians used terrorism to internationalize the conflict, hijacking and destroying airplanes, holding diplomats hostage, and even attacking Israelis at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Israel’s MFA website lists the major terror attacks during this time period. And it is not a short list.
Jul 22, 1968 – Rome, Italy
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) carries out first hijacking, diverting an El Al flight to Algiers. 32 Jewish passengers were held hostage for 5 weeks.
Sep 4, 1968 – Tel Aviv, Israel
1 killed and 71 wounded by 3 bombs that exploded in city center.
Oct 1968 – Hijacking of El Al aircraft en route to Algeria.
Nov 22, 1968 – Jerusalem, Israel
12 killed and 52 injured by a car bomb in the Mahaneh Yehuda market.
Dec 26, 1968 – Athens, Greece
1 killed and 1 wounded in a shooting attack on an El Al aircraft at the airport, carried out by the PFLP.
Feb 18, 1969 – Zurich, Switzerland
A pilot and 3 passengers killed by terrorists that attacked an El Al Boeing 707 on the airport runway.
Feb 21, 1969 – Jerusalem, Israel
2 killed and 20 injured by a bomb detonated in a crowded supermarket.
Oct 22, 1969 – Haifa, Israel
4 killed and 20 wounded by terrorist bombs in 5 apartments.
Feb 10, 1970 – Zurich, Switzerland
1 killed and 11 wounded by 3 Arab terrorists who unsuccessfully attempted to hijack an El Al flight at Zurich airport.
May 22, 1970 – Avivim, Israel
Terrorists attack schoolbus, killing 12 (9 of whom were children), and wounding 24.
Sep 6, 1970 – Dawson Field, Jordan
3 airliners holding over 400 passengers were hijacked, and taken to the Jordanian airport by the PFLP. The hostages were released in exchange for terrorists held in Germany, Switzerland, and England.
May 8, 1972 – Lod airport, Israel
1 passenger was killed in a rescue operation by Israeli commandos on a hijacked Belgian airliner 2 of the 4 Palestinian Black September terrorists were killed. The hostages were freed.
May 30, 1972 – Lod airport
26 killed and 78 wounded after PFLP and Japanese Red Army terrorists open fire in the passenger terminal.
Sep 5, 1972 – Munich, Germany
11 members of the Israeli Olympic wrestling team and 1 German policeman were massacred by Fatah terrorists after an unsuccessful rescue attempt by West German authorities.
Apr 11, 1974 – Kiryat Shemona, Israel | 18 killed, 8 of whom were children, by PFLP terrorists who detonated their explosives during a failed rescue attempt by Israeli authorities.
May 15, 1974 – Maalot, Israel
27 killed, 21 of whom were children, and 78 wounded by PFLP terrorists in a school, after an unsuccessful rescue attempt.
Mar 5, 1975 – Tel Aviv, Israel
Terrorists take over the Savoy hotel 4 people are killed.
Jul 4, 1975 – Jerusalem, Israel
14 killed and 80 injured in Zion Square bombing attack, in which the bomb was hidden in a refrigerator.
Jun 27, 1976 – Entebbe, Uganda
An Air France airliner was hijacked by a joint German/PFLP terrorist group, which diverted the flight to Entebbe airport. About 258 passengers and crew were held hostage until all non-Israeli passengers were released. On July 4th, Israeli commandos flew to Uganda and rescued the remaining hostages. All terrorists were killed, as well as 3 passengers and operation leader Lieutenant-Colonel Yonatan Netanyahu.
Aug 11, 1976 – Istanbul, Turkey
4 killed and 20 wounded by PFLP and Japanese Red Army terrorists in an attack at Istanbul airport.
Mar 11, 1978 – Glilot junction
36 killed, and over 100 injured, in a bus hijacking by a female-led Palestinian terrorist gang.
Apr 7, 1980 – Kibbutz Misgav-Am, Israel | Terrorists attack children’s house on the kibbutz, leaving 3 dead, one of whom was a child.
Jun 3, 1982 – London, England
Abu Nidal organization attempts to kill the Israeli ambassador to London, Shlomo Argov, severely wounding him.
Oct 7, 1985 – PLFP attacks the Achille Lauro ship en route to Israel, murdering one of the passengers (an American national).
Sep 6, 1986 – Istanbul, Turkey
Abu Nidal organization attacks the Neveh Shalom synagogue, killing 22 people.
Nov 25, 1987 – Northern Border, Israel (near Kiryat Shemona)
2 Palestinian terrorists cross into Israel from Lebanon on hang gliders, killing 6 Israeli soldiers and wounding 8.
Aug 21, 1988 – Haifa
25 wounded in a grenade attack at the Haifa mall.
Of course, this is not surprising: Erakat has in the past referred to palestinian terrorism as “resistance.”
Remember, this is coming from one of the more “respectable” palestinian activists. Which I think speaks volumes about the bankruptcy of their cause – and the lack of vetting some US universities engage in before hiring their teaching staff.
2014 April - Fatah and Hamas agree to form unity government, which takes office in June. Fatah complains that separate Hamas cabinet continues to rule Gaza.
2014 July-August - Israel responds to attacks from armed groups in Gaza with a military campaign by air and land to knock out missile launching sites and attack tunnels. Clashes end in uneasy Egyptian-brokered ceasefire in August.
2014 December - Minister Without Portfolio Ziad Abu Ein dies at clash with Israeli troops at West Bank protest.
2017 October - Hamas signs a reconciliation deal intended to administrative control of Gaza transferred to the Palestinian Authority, but disputes stalled the deal's implementation.
2017 December - US President Donald Trump recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, upsetting the Arab world and some Western allies.
2018 March - Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah visits Gaza, where his convoy survives a roadside bomb attack.
2018 July-August - UN and Egypt attempt to broker a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas amid an upsurge in violence on the Gaza border from March.
2019 November - US says it no longer considers Israeli settlements on the West Bank to be illegal.