French Police Storm Hijacked Plane


On December 24th, 1994 Air France flight 8969 scheduled to fly from Algiers to Paris was hijacked while still at the airport in Algiers. The hijacking was committed by four men dressed as Algerian presidential police. The men were members of the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria, a jihadist group attempting to establish an Islamist government in Algeria.

The police impersonators boarded the plane as it was at the gate, ostensibly to check passports. When air crews noticed that they were armed and possessed sticks of dynamite, the alarm was raised. The plane was surrounded and the hijackers went into action. They took the passengers and crew hostage and began negotiating with the Algerian Government. The hijackers claimed they wanted the release of Islamist political prisoners. Their true intention was to fly the plane to Paris and crash it into the Eiffel Tower. The Algerian authorities had used vehicles to block in the aircraft and prevent it from taking off. A stalemate ensued that lasted 39 hours. The hijackers, growing more insistent, discovered that one of the passengers was an off duty Algerian Police Officer. They took the officer to the door of the plane, shot him in the head, and threw him to the ground below. After two more passengers will executed in a similar manner the French and Algerian government agreed to let the plane take off. As a part of the negotiation, 63 women and children were released.

The 107 passengers still on board took off headed for Marseille, France. The hijackers had wanted to get to Paris (their plans to destroy the Eiffel Tower were still not known) but they had burned fuel running auxiliary power units since the takeover two days earlier. It was agreed that they would refuel in Marseille.

The French Government had no intention of allowing this plane anywhere near Paris. The GIGN (Groupe d’intervention de la Gendarmerie nationale) led by Major Denis Favier was ready to great the plane when it landed in Marseille in the early morning hours of December 26th, 1994. The GIGN is an elite counter-terrorism squad operating under the quasi-military National Gendarmerie.

The GIGN members posed as airport workers and approached the plane, conducting reconnaissance for a raid. The hijackers, becoming impatient with the time being taken to fuel the plane, began shooting at the control tower. It was time to act. Major Favier put his plan into action. As the GIGN began rolling boarding stairs to multiple points, they came under fire by the hijackers. Snipers and assault units engaged these shooters, neutralizing them. The GIGN team boarded the plane, deployed concussion grenades and were able to kill the remaining hijackers. Although several GIGN members were shot, none were killed. Remarkably no passengers were killed or seriously injured in the raid. A great job by the cops in taking out this group. It would be almost seven years later that a similar plot struck the United States in a catastrophic attack.


Christopher Flanagan


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