Man arrested for suspected involvement in 1985 TWA Flight 847 hijacking

A passenger on a cruise ship passing through the Greek islands was probably as surprised as the police when a random passport check linked him with a 34-year old plane hijacking.

Hamadei Saleh Mohammed Ali was taken into custody on the island of Mykonos on Thursday in connection with the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847. The 65-year old Lebanese man was on his way to Turkey when he was detained on a German arrest warrant, ABC News reports.

The 17-day hijacking involved the killing of a U.S. Navy diver.

1985 Hijacking

More than 30 years ago, TWA Flight 847 took off from Cairo, Egypt with San Diego, California as its final destination. The plane took off from Athens, Greece on June 14 with stops in Rome, Boston and Los Angeles, when Hezbollah hijackers took over the plane, according to Fox News.

The terrorists took the plane’s 153 passengers and crew hostage throughout a 17-day crisis that involved several stops in Beirut and Algiers. The passengers were bound and beaten. The hijackers had demanded that Israel release hundreds of Lebanese Shiite detainees.

When their demands weren’t met, the terrorists bound, tortured, and killed 23-year old U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem and dumped his body on the tarmac in Beirut. Gradually, they released the hostages and the last was let go after 17 days.

FBI’s Most Wanted

The suspect was transferred to Syros and taken to Korydallos high-security prison in Athens for extradition proceedings.

Media reports in Greece identified the suspect as Mohammed Ali Hammadi, who was arrested at Frankfurt airport in 1987 with explosives on his person. He was convicted in the hijacking and murder and sentenced to life in prison.

But Germany did not extradite Hammadi to the U.S. when they had him in custody, despite threats from Hezbollah to kill two German citizens who were abducted in Lebanon. He was instead exchanged with the hostages and allowed to go back to Lebanon after being released on parole, according to the BBC.

The alleged Hezbollah member is wanted by German authorities for the hijacking as well as 1987 kidnapping. The U.S. still considers Hammadi, one of four suspected hijackers, a fugitive from justice.

He is on the FBI’s list of most-wanted terrorists with a $5 million bounty, along with hijackers Hasan Izz-Al-Din and Ali Atwa.

The suspect denied involvement in the hijacking. An official from the Lebanese consulate was reportedly going to visit the suspect on Sunday.

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