Hijacking Of TWA Flight 847





Hijacking Of TWA Flight 847



June 1985 a Friday morning, just under a half an hour into the flight two terrorist brandished their guns and grenades, TWA flight 847 a Boeing 727 would now be hijacked. TWA Flight 847 out of Athens to Rome is hijacked by Shiite Muslims who have been identified as members of Islamic Jihad, "Holy War", a group of various fundamentalist, operating in Lebanon and other Middle East countries.  

They have been known to be sympathetic to Iran's revolutionary ruler, Ayatullah Khomeini. The flight included over 150 passengers and its crew. At least 100 of the passengers were Americans. Enroute, the pilot contacted Beirut tower. The pilot reports his situation, he further states, "He has pulled a hand-grenade pin and is ready to blow up the aircraft if he has to. We must, I repeat, we must land at Beirut. We must land at Beirut. No alternative." Beirut, not wanting any involvement with the terrorist, attempts to prevent Flight 847 from landing.


Beirut ordered airport crews to block the runways with trucks and buses. However, pilot John Testrake informed Beirut tower, "They are beating up passengers. We must land in Beirut. He has pulled the pin of the grenade. We must land. He is ready to blow up the plane." A terrorist responded over the radio, "We are suicide terrorists! If you don't let us land, we will crash the plane into your control tower, or fly it to Baabda and crash into the Presidential Palace!"  

The Tower responds hesitantly, "Very well, Land, Land quietly, Land quietly." The pilot states, "They are beating the passengers. They are threatening to kill the passengers. We want fuel now. Immediately. Five minutes at most, or he is going to kill the passengers." A hijacker breaks in and states, "The plane is booby-trapped. If anyone approaches, we will blow it up. Either refuel the plane or blowing it up. No alternative." Flight 847 was allowed to refuel.  

The hijackers then released a half dozen women and children and departed for Algiers. Algiers' authorities responded by shutting down the airport in an effort to keep Flight 847 from landing there. President Reagan contacts Algerian President ,Chadli Bendjedid. Flight 847 is allowed to land and most male passengers and crew, except the pilot, are released. Flight 847 departed Algiers and returned back to Beirut. Upon landing in Beirut for the second time, the killing began. The Shiite hijackers, in an effort to show how sincere they were, killed a passenger. Then a Shiite hijacker responded over the radio, "You see! You now believe it. There will be another in five minutes". Within a few minutes, an Amal official and his body guard boarded Flight 847 in an effort to prevent further killings.


The hijackers demanded the release of 50 Lebanese Shiites held in Israeli jails and the release of Shiites imprisoned in Cyprus and Kuwait. The hijackers also demanded the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon and international condemnation of the United States and Israel. In addition the hijackers demanded that the airport lights be turned off. The Airport lights were soon turned off. Unbeknown to airport officials this gave the two hijackers onboard the opportunity to board additional gunman for reinforcements. In addition, the hijackers had obtained the passports from the hostages onboard.

Those passengers that had Jewish sounding names were departed from the aircraft and taken to a site in which they would be held by Islamic Jihad. Fight 847 soon departed Beirut after the gunmen had stated their demands and returned to Algiers. While in Algiers, the hijackers released 50 more hostages after Algerian negotiators meet with the hijackers. Within hours, TWA Flight 847 had returned to Beirut for the third time. However, this time the Beirut tower refused to give permission to Flight 847 to land. The pilot in a desperate plea informed Beirut tower that the aircraft only had five minutes of fuel on board.

He continued on his flight plan and landed the aircraft. Back in the United States, the military had dispatched the antiterrorist Delta Force units. The Jewish passengers that were taken off the aircraft and held by Islamic Jihad were rescued by Delta Forces. After several threats, the hijackers freed the remaining hostages, blew up the aircraft and fled into the Shiite neighborhoods.

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