The Hijacking of Air Flight 830



The Hijacking of Air  Flight 830

On June 9, 1997, an Air Malta Boeing 737 aircraft (AMC flight 830) was hijacked by two Turkish men in their mid-20s. The hijackers, who claimed to have explosive devices, diverted the flight to Cologne-Bonn Airport in Germany. The aircraft, with a total of 74 passengers and six crew members, had departed from Luqa Airport in Valletta, Malta, at approximately 1 a.m. local time and was on a scheduled flight to Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, Turkey.

The hijacking occurred about 20 minutes into the flight when the two men, located in seats 14B and 14C, took up positions in the front and rear of the aircraft. One of the hijackers entered the cockpit and told the pilot that he had a bomb strapped to his chest. The hijacker reportedly raised his shirt and revealed an object with wires attached to his body. He then ordered the captain to fly to Germany. The other hijacker had what appeared to be sticks of dynamite strapped to his chest. Among the demands of the hijackers was that a Turkish-speaking interpreter and a television crew board the aircraft in Germany.



Preliminary reports suggested that the hijackers wanted to make a statement calling for the liberation of Mehmet Ali Agca, a Turkish national serving a life sentence in Italy for attempting to assassinate Pope John Paul II in May 1981. Agca later released a written statement, however, in which he declared that he had "absolutely nothing to do with the hijacking of the airliner." The aircraft landed at approximately 4:58 a.m. local time at Cologne-Bonn Airport in Germany, located about ten miles south of Cologne and serving both cities. After landing, the aircraft taxied to what was described as a "freight section" of the airport. German police quickly established contact with one of the men through a Turkish-speaking interpreter.

The two hijackers were persuaded to surrender peacefully during negotiations with the police, which lasted about two hours. The hijackers initially released five passengers, including an elderly woman with a heart condition, about one hour after the aircraft landed. After an interview with a German television team, the hijackers reportedly turned their "bombs" over to the pilot, who examined them and determined that they were hoax explosive devices. At approximately 7:40 a.m. local time, the two men surrendered and were escorted from the plane. All of the passengers were released unharmed, and there were no injuries to any of the crew members. The hijackers never threatened or mistreated any of the passengers during the incident. The aircraft was not damaged during the incident. A search of the aircraft following after the surrender revealed that there were no weapons, explosives, or detonators on board.

An investigation revealed that the two hijackers began constructing the hoax devices in their seats about five minutes after takeoff from Malta. According to authorities in Malta, the two men made so much noise with the tape they were using that other passengers started asking what they were doing. Information pertaining to the details of the devices is both sketchy and confusing. Apparently, the "bomb" attached to one of the hijackers was actually two deodorant cans wrapped together. The "dynamite sticks" attached to the other hijacker reportedly were a packet of cigarettes wrapped in brown adhesive tape. One hijacker had a toy remote control unit connected to his device. The other man had a wire connected to a battery. Apparently, at least one of the items used to construct the devices was purchased at a duty free shop immediately prior to boarding the plane in Malta.

Officials in Malta believe that the two men simply did not want to return to Turkey. According to local press reports, the hijackers had sought refugee status in Malta but were turned down. The hijackers themselves claimed they chose to go to Germany because it was receptive to those claiming to be oppressed and because of its reputation of free press. This hijacking was the first involving an Air Malta aircraft since the airline was formed in the early 1970s. It was also the first hijacking of a flight originating in Malta.

[Editor’s Note: The hijackers’ trial was completed on January 30, 1998. One hijacker received a prison term of five years and nine months. The other hijacker was sentenced to four years imprisonment.

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