This Day In History: Palestinian Terrorists Hijack A German Passenger Plane (1977)

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On this day in history, a gang of Palestinians hijacked an airliner and demanded the release of members of a German left-wing terrorist group. The hijackers had seized a Lufthansa airplane and they stated that they would only release their hostages upon the release of the leading members of the German Red Army Faction from a German prison. This group was also known as the Baeder-Meinhof Gang, after the names of the two leaders of the group. The Red Army Faction was a communist terror group that was dedicated to the overthrow of the democratically elected government of West German, which it regarded as repressive. The Red Army Faction had launched a string of attacks across Germany that left more than 30 people.  The group had been sympathetic to the aims of the Palestinians and they had become allied to such terrorist groups as the PFLP.

Rückkehr des Sonderflugzeuges auf dem Flughafen Köln/Bonn am 18.10.1977 mit Staatsminister Hans-Jürgen Wischnewski und der Einsatzgruppe GSG 9 des Bundesgrenzschutzes nach der geglückten Befreiung der Geiseln aus einem von Terroristen gekaperten Lufthansa-Flugzeug auf dem Flughafen Mogadischu (Somalia)
The freed German hostages after their release

The Palestinian hijackers ordered the plane to several airports and, eventually they ordered it to land at Mogadishu, Somalia, on October 17. Here one of the terrorists executed in cold blood one of the pilots. It soon became clear that at least one of the hijackers was possibly mad and that the lives of all the hostages were in danger. The German government was in a dilemma they could not give in to the demands of the hijackers and this would only encourage them to carry out more attacks and hijack more planes. However, they had to do something to save the passengers and crew on the plane. They agreed on a daring rescue plan.

Early the next morning, a German special forces team stormed the aircraft, with some help from members of the British SAS. The raid was a great success and it secured the release  of all 86 hostages, who were mostly German citizens. None of whom were injured or harmed during the operation. The German special forces team shot and killed three of the hijackers and manage to capture the fourth, who was badly wounded. Only one member of the special forces team was wounded in the raid. When news of the successful raid was broadcast in Germany there was widespread rejoicing. The success of the raid helped, along with improved airport security to reduce the number of hijackings carried out by terrorists.

The members of the Red Army Faction in prison, when they heard that the hijacking attempt had failed knew that they would spend the rest of their lives in jail. The then agreed to commit suicide. That night several members of the group killed themselves in prison. This was the effective end of the Red Army Faction although some members of the group continued to stage terrorist attacks in Germany, including bombings and kidnappings.

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  • Brent Richards

    This is so typical of the poorly written and edited articles of History Collection. This one is so poorly done it doesn’t even have the year of the event(1977), the flight (Lufthansa 181), the pilot’s name (Jürgen Schumann), the West German unit’s name (GSG 9) The unit’s commander (Colonel Ulrich Wegener) the landing in Rome, Dubai and Aden before arrival in Mogadishu, or the names of the terrorists (Wabil Harb and Hind Alameh, Zohair Akache and Suhaila Sayeh)