What happened during the hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1985?
October 7, 1985, Italian MS Achille Lauro was hijacked by four men from the Palestine Liberation Front, a liner which was sailing from Alexandria to Port Said. Leader of the PLF, Muhammad Zaidan (Abu Abbas), is known to be the mastermind behind the hijack. The image portrayed by the radical Jews blame PLF wholly for this incident, concealing the fact that this attack was launched as retaliation after the PLO headquarters was bombed by Israeli forces in ‘operation wooden leg.’ This attack was made only a few days prior to the hijacking and killed sixty PLO members and also several bodyguards of Yasser Arafat and leaders of Force 17.
The hijackers held the passengers and crew hostage as to make a demand of the release of 50 Palestinians, held up in Israeli prisons at that time. The incident which gained much popularity was the killing of a sixty-nine year old Jewish, Leon Klinghoffer. Leon, who was in the wheelchair, was shot twice by the hijackers and thrown into the sea after the ship was refused to dock at Tartus by the Syrian government. Some reports also show that Leon was shot for he was throwing inciting comments at the hijackers who lost their patience. PLO accepted the responsibility of the murder of Klinghoffer, apologized for their act and settled on an agreement to pay Klinghoffer’s daughters an undisclosed amount. While most Americans remember only a part of the story, there was more to it. Killing of Leon Klinghoffer is an incident that most of the people over forty remember, but there are only a few who are of the knowledge that there was another murder related to this.
During the hijacking, Alex Odeh, who was a Palestinian-American, defended Yasser Arafat’s attempt to alleviate the whole hostage situation. The day next to his speaking on Los Angeles television, Odeh was killed by a bomb blast in his office, known to have detonated there by the radical members of Jewish Defense League.
The Achille Lauro hijacking came to an end with Abu Abbas and his allies surrendering to the Egyptian authorities, with the promise that they be allowed safe passage to Tunisia. As they were transported to the country via an airliner, the plan was forced to land on a NATO air base in Italy by the American Navy fighter jets. Abu Abbas apologized for the killing of Klinghoffer saying, “The killing of the passenger was a mistake, we are sorry.” This was furthered by his supporters who claimed that Abbas has mellowed down over the years and has renounced terrorism.
Yasser Arafat condemned the acts of the hijackers and denied involvement in it, in fact, PLO officials joined hands with Egyptian authorities with an attempt to resolve the crisis at hand. According to PLO, the hijacking was carried out by a splinter group that opposed Arafat and Palestine Liberation Front in an attempt to shatter their image.