Achille Lauro Hijacking


On October 7th, 1985, four Palestinian terrorists hijacked the cruise ship Achille Lauro as it left the port of Alexandria, Egypt. The hijackers were from the the Popular Front for the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), the terrorist wing of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). The mastermind of the plot was Abu Abbas, a PLF leader who had previously engaged in an unsuccessful bombing campaign against Israel. He did not partake in the actual hijacking but was communicating with the hijackers during the event.

The hijackers demanded that the Syrian Government release PLF prisoners, but Syria refused. The hijackers gathered the American passengers together and randomly executed Leon Klinghoffer. International pressure on the PLO caused Abbas to order the hijackers to return to Egypt and not to harm any more passengers. Once in Egypt the 4 hijackers were allowed to disembark and get on a plane out of the country. American jets intercepted the plane and forced it to land in Italy. It was discovered that Abbas himself was on the plane and all were detained by the Italian Government.

The Italians engaged in a jurisdictional dispute with the United States over the prosecution of the terrorists. They allowed Abbas himself to leave the country and only kept the four hijackers who were on the Achille Lauro. The four hijackers were eventually found guilty but given relatively lenient sentences. Eventually a warrant was issued for Abbas but he was never arrested. He was convicted by Italian Courts in absentia and sentenced to life in prison. Italy never attempted to locate or extradite Abbas. In 2003 Abbas was captured by US Special Forces at a compound outside of Baghdad. He was placed under arrest and died of natural causes as an American prisoner in Iraq.


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