This day in history

07 October - Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro hijacked

Four heavily armed Palestinian terrorists hijack an Italian cruise ship, the Achille Lauro, off the coast of Egypt. Calling themselves the Palestine Liberation Front, the gunmen demanded the release of 50 Palestinian militants imprisoned in Israel. Lacking support from mainstream Palestinian groups, the hijackers surrendered to Egyptian authorities on 9th October in exchange for a pledge of safe passage to an undisclosed destination.

However, when an Egyptian jet tried to fly the hijackers to freedom on 10th October, U.S. Navy fighters intercepted the plane and forced it to land at a U.S. Navy base in Sicily early the next morning. U.S. and Italian troops surrounded the plane, and the terrorists were taken into Italian custody. The sole casualty of the hostage crisis was an elderly Jewish-American, Leon Klinghoffer, who was shot to death and thrown overboard with his wheelchair. An Italian court later convicted the four terrorists and sentenced them to prison terms ranging up to 30 years.

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