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1970: Hundreds held in series of hijacks
Four New York-bound airliners have been hijacked over western Europe in an unprecedented operation carried out by a militant Palestinian group.

Three of the planes taken over by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) have been flown to two different locations in the Middle East.

One of the hijackers is dead and the other in custody after the crew and passengers on the fourth jet foiled the attack.

The PFLP have demanded the release of three Arab dissidents held in a Swiss jail in return for the 382 passengers they are holding hostage.

The hijackers took control of the planes in an operation lasting just under four hours:

  • 1220 BST TWA Boeing 707 from Frankfurt
  • 1314 BST Swissair DC8 from Zurich
  • 1350 BST El Al Boeing 707 from Amsterdam
  • 1600 BST Pan American Boeing 747 from Amsterdam

The TWA and Swissair planes were flown to an airfield in Jordan and the Pan American airliner to Beirut.

Emergency landing

On the El Al flight a passenger pinned down an Arab female armed with a grenade who was attempting to get onto the flight deck.

Her fellow hijacker - a male armed with a hand gun - was tackled by a steward.

Several shots were fired, killing the male Arab militant and seriously wounding the crew member, but the pilot was able to make an emergency landing at Heathrow.

The captured female dissident was arrested by armed detectives at the airport and taken to a police station in west London.

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The El Al 707 after landing at Heathrow
The El-Al crew overpowered the hijackers

In Context
The Pan American jet was flown to Cairo airport in the early hours of the morning on 7 September and blown up after the hijackers had led all the passengers to safety.

The other two planes held at a former RAF airfield in the Jordanian desert were joined by another hijacked jet - a British Airways flight from Bombay - on 9 September.

Most of the hostages were released on 11 September, and the hijackers escorted the remainder off the planes just before they blew them up the following day.

Six passengers were held by the PFLP until 1 October, when they were exchanged for the release of Leila Khaled - the captured female hijacker.

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