On This Day: Anniversary of The 1985 Egypt Air Hijack In Malta

On This Day: Anniversary of The 1985 Egypt Air Hijack In Malta (News Central TV)

On November 23, 1985, an Egypt Air Boeing 737 passenger aircraft was hijacked. The plane landed in Malta to begin a 24-hour nightmare that culminated in the death of 62 people.

Gunmen took control of the plane 10 minutes after it took off from Athens airport. The terrorists, dubbed the Egypt Revolution, were fully armed with firearms and grenades. They compelled the captain to reroute the jet to Malta, which landed on a remote airstrip at Luqa Airport near Valletta.

On This Day: Anniversary of The 1985 Egypt Air Hijack In Malta (News Central TV)
EgyptAir Boeing 737 passenger aircraft hijacked in 1985

The jet then waited on the runway for 24 hours as Maltese police attempted to negotiate the release of the hostages on board. Some of the captives, including two injured stewardesses and some Filipino and Egyptian ladies, were released shortly after the hijackers arrived. They then led an Israeli woman to the doorway and shot her in the head without warning. A second lady was shot the next morning, followed by a third, later that day. Two additional bodies were thrown onto the tarmac, both of which were murdered on board the aircraft.

Anniversary of The Egypt Air Hijack In Malta (News Central TV)
Anniversary of The Egypt Air Hijack In Malta

“They were constantly aggressive, waving guns and shouting in everyone’s faces,” one of the passengers said, “but all the passengers kept quiet, not daring to speak or move.” Later, it was revealed that there were only three hijackers on board, two of whom were killed as commandos seized the aircraft. The storming of the aircraft killed 56 passengers and two crew members (out of the remaining 88 passengers).

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Not surprisingly, the use of force to halt the hijacking was heavily criticised. The commandos were accused of being unprepared and overbearing. Several passengers were killed by explosives detonated by the Egyptian military during the raid, not by the hijackers. Three of the five hostages executed by the hijackers, two Americans and three Israelis, were shot in cold blood while the plane was on the tarmac in Malta.

On This Day: Anniversary of The 1985 Egypt Air Hijack In Malta (News Central TV)
Omar Mohammed Ali Rezaq (centre) accompanied by armed security guards and his lawyer Joseph Mifsud 

Omar Rezaq, a Palestinian who boarded the plane under a fake identity, was identified as the surviving hijacker. He was associated with the radical Abu Nidal organisation. He was prosecuted in Malta and condemned to 25 years in prison, but he only served seven. Following his release, he travelled to Nigeria, where he was given over to FBI officials, who flew him to the United States to stand prosecution. He was condemned to life in prison for air piracy in 1996. Many issues have been raised about how force was used to halt the hijacking. Critics accused the commandos of ill-preparedness and excessive force.

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