- TWA Flight 847
Infobox Airliner accident|name=TWA Flight 847
June 14, 1985
Origin=Athens (Ellinikon) International Airport| Stopover=
Leonardo Da Vinci International Airport
London Heathrow Airport
Aircraft Type=Boeing 727-231
Trans World Airlines
TWA Flight 847 was an international
Trans World Airlinesflight which was hijacked by Lebanese Shia Islamists on Friday morning, June 14, 1985, after originally taking off from Cairo. The flight was en route from Athens, Greeceto Rome, Italy, from where it was scheduled to travel on to London. The aircraft with its passengers and crew endured a three-day intercontinental ordeal during which one passenger, a U.S. Navydiver, was murdered. Dozens of passengers were then held hostage over the next two weeks, until released by their captors.
Piloted by 58-year-old Captain John Testrake, the
Boeing 727, tail number N64339 [ [http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19850614-0 ASN Aircraft accident description Boeing 727-231 N64339 - Beirut, Algiers, Beirut, Algiers, Beirut ] ] , departed at 10:10 am, carrying 153 passengers and crew, including flight engineer Benjamin C. Zimmermann,See "Hostage in a Hostage World: Hope aboard Hijacked TWA 847" (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1985) for Zimmermann's account of this experience.] co-pilot Philip G. Maresca, and flight attendant Uli Derickson.
It was commandeered shortly after takeoff by two German-speaking Lebanese men who had smuggled pistols and grenades through the Athens airport security. A third intended hijacker,
Ali Atwa, had been bumped from the flight and was later arrested in Greece.
To Beirut, then Algiers
The plane was diverted from airspace over Greece to the
Middle Eastand made its first stop, for several hours, at the Beirut, Lebanonairport, where 19 passengers were allowed to leave in exchange for fuel. During this time, Lebanon was in the midst of a civil war, and Beirut was divided into sectors controlled by different militias.
On Friday afternoon, the aircraft continued on to
Algiers, Algeriain North Africawhere 20 passengers were released during a five-hour stop, before heading back to Beirut Friday night.
Back to Beirut
Beirut International Airport, surrounded by a Shianeighborhood, had no perimeter security and nearby residents could simply drive onto the runway. During this stop, the hijackers identified a U.S. Navydiver, Robert Stethem, among the passengers. They beat him, shot him in the right temple, and dumped his body out of the plane onto the tarmac. Seven American passengers, who were alleged to have Jewish-sounding surnames, were taken off the jet by Hezbollah and sequestered in Beirut. [ [http://www.country-data.com/cgi-bin/query/r-8105.html Lebanon Hostage crisis] ]
Algiers again, Beirut again
Nearly a dozen armed men joined the hijackers before the plane returned to Algiers on Saturday,
June 15, where an additional 65 passengers were released. It returned to Beirut for a third time, landing on Sunday afternoon, June 16, and remained there.
The initial demands of the hijackers included:
*the release of all 766 mainly Lebanese Shias transferred to Israel in conjunction with Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon; [Ranstorp, Magnus, "Hizb'allah in Lebanon : The Politics of the Western Hostage Crisis", New York, St. Martins Press, 1997, p.95]
*international condemnation of Israeli military activity in southern Lebanon; Fact|date=August 2007
*condemnation of U.S. actions in the Middle East; Fact|date=August 2007 and
*condemnation of the
March 8, 1985, car bombing in the Beirut suburb of Bir al Abedearlier that year. The Greek government released the accomplice Ali Atwa and in exchange the hijackers released eight Greek citizens, including Greek pop singer Demis Roussos.
By Monday afternoon,
June 17, most of the hostages had been taken from the plane to a secure location. The 40 remaining hostages were held by Nabih Berri, the chief of the Amal militia and the then Minister of Justice in the fractured Lebanon cabinet. One of the hostages was released when he developed heart trouble. The other 39 remained captive until June 30, when they were driven to Syria. The hostages then boarded a U.S. Air Forceplane and flew to West Germany. Over the next several weeks, Israel released over 700 Shia prisoners, while maintaining that the prisoners' release was not related to the hijacking. [ [http://www.photius.com/countries/lebanon/national_security/lebanon_national_security_the_hostage_crisis.html Lebanon, the hostage crisis] ]
The iconic image of this hijacking was the photograph showing a hijacker holding a gun to the pilot's head (sticking out of the cockpit window) as the pilot is being questioned by reporters. [http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/meast/02/13/btsc.clancy.mugniyah/index.html Terror Mastermind's deception cause for skepticism] , "CNN.COM",
February 14, 2008]
Uli Dericksonwas widely credited with calming the hijackers and saving the lives of many passengers. Because her German was the only common language with the hijackers, who spoke poor English, she acted as translator and liaison for most of the ordeal. Notably, she defused a tense situation in Algiers when airport officials refused to refuel the plane without payment by offering her own Shell Oilcredit card, which was used to charge about $5,500 for 6,000 gallons of jet fuel, for which she later was reimbursed. She also hid the passports of Jewishpassengers so they could not be singled out.
Israel released some of its Shia prisoners within a month after the hijacking ended. They stated that the release was unrelated to the hijacking and had long been planned.
Magnus Ranstorpof the University of St. Andrews, credits "leading Hezbollah members Hassan Izz-Al-Din(later involved in the Kuwait flight 422 hijackingin 1988) and Mohammed Ali Hammadiwhose brother was one of the heads of the Hezbollah SSA (Special Security Apparatus). Iranassisting Hezballah operatives in the "supervision and planning of the incident itself and as an active participant in the defusion and resolution." [Ranstorp, Magnus, "Hizb'allah in Lebanon : The Politics of the Western Hostage Crisis", New York, St. Martins Press, 1997, p.95] On October 10, 2001, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, three of the alleged hijackers, Imad Mugniyah, Ali Atwaand Hassan Izz-Al-Din, having been earlier indicted in United States district courts for the 1985 skyjacking of the American airliner, were among the original 22 fugitives announced by President George W. Bush to be placed on the newly formed FBI Most Wanted Terroristslist. Rewards of $5 million for information leading to their arrests and convictions still are being offered by the United States.
Another of the hijackers,
Mohammed Ali Hammadi, was arrested in 1987in Frankfurt, Germany(then West Germany), while attempting to smuggle liquid explosives, two years after the TWA Flight 847 attack. In addition to the West German charge of illegal importation of explosives, he was tried and convicted of Stethem's 1985 murder and was sentenced to life in prison. However, he was paroled and released by German officials on December 20, 2005, and returned to Lebanon. [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10544923/ Germany paroles terrorist after 19-year term] , "MSNBC.MSN.com"] [http://www.geocities.com/martinkramerorg/2004_01_27.htm Will Germany Release an American-Killer?] , January 27, 2004] As of February 14, 2006the United Statesformally asked the Lebanese government to extradite Mohammed Ali Hammadi for the murder of U.S. Navydiver Robert Stethemduring the 1985 hijacking. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4547416.stm US 'seeks justice' for hijacker] , "BBC News"] On February 24, 2006, he appeared as well on the FBI Most Wanted Terrorists list, under the name Mohammed Ali Hamadei. He was among the second group of indicted fugitives to be named by the FBI to the list. [http://www.fbi.gov/pressrel/pressrel06/mostwantedterrorists022406.htm FBI Updates Most Wanted Terrorists and Seeking Information – War on Terrorism Lists] , "FBI national Press Release", February 24, 2006]
Several news outlets [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23140698/ Hezbollah: Top militant wanted by U.S. slain] , "MSNBC.MSN.COM"
February 13, 2008] reported the announcement by Hezbollahof the death of Imad Mugniyahby explosion in Syria on February 13, 2008. The remaining three fugitives from TWA Flight 847 remain on the list, and at large.
Hezbollah reportedly denies culpability in the TWA Flight 847 attack, among its denials of numerous other attacks which have been attributed to the group. Still, the FBI
wanted posters of each of the indicted fugitives alleges their individual membership or leadership role in the organization the FBI names as "Lebanese Hezbollah," which it plainly then calls a "terrorist organization."
References in popular culture
* The 1986 film "
The Delta Force" was loosely based on this event.
* The 1988 made-for-TV film "" was directly based on this event.
Nitzer Ebbsong "T.W.A." (from the album "Belief") appears to be inspired by this event, as it contains samples of someone saying "TWA flight 847" and "We must land at Beirut."
* [http://www.rewardsforjustice.net/english/acts_of_terror/index.cfm?page=TWA_847 Rewards for Justice Flight TWA 847 page]
* [http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/terrorists/fugitives.htm FBI Most Wanted Terrorists at fbi.gov web site]
* [http://www.uliderickson.net/ Uli Derickson - Legacy of Courage]
* [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23140698 Top Hezblloah militant slain]
* [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=950CE3D81439F934A35751C0A960958260&n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/Subjects/H/Hijacking John Testrake, 68, TWA. Pilot Who Became Hero in Hijacking]
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