US embassy cable - 85BEIRUT3493

HIJACKING OF TWA FLIGHT 847: SITUATION AS OF 0945 ZULU

Identifier: 85BEIRUT3493
Wikileaks: View 85BEIRUT3493 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Beirut
Created: 1985-06-14 10:06:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PTER EAIR LE US
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
O 141006Z JUN 85
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO SECSTATE WASHDC NIACT IMMEDIATE 3506
AMEMBASSY AMMAN NIACT IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY ATHENS NIACT IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS NIACT IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY NICOSIA NIACT IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY ROME NIACT IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV NIACT IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY TUNIS NIACT IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L BEIRUT 03493 
 
TERREP 
 
E.O. 12356:  DECL:  OADR 
TAGS:  PTER, EAIR, LE, US 
SUBJECT:  HIJACKING OF TWA FLIGHT 847: 
SITUATION AS OF 0945 ZULU 
 
REFS:  MCDONALD/OPSCENTER TACSAT TELCONS 6/14/85 
 
1.  CONFIDENTIAL - ENTIRE TEXT. 
 
2.  AT 1153 LOCAL (0853 Z), HIJACKED TWA FLIGHT 847 
FROM ATHENS TO ROME LANDED AT BEIRUT AIRPORT. 
HIJACKERS THREATENED TO KILL AN AMCIT CURRENTLY 
BEING HELD IN COCKPIT IF AIRCRAFT DID NOT RECEIVE 
40,000 LB OF FUEL.  MONITORED COCKPIT/TOWER RADIO CONVERSATIONS 
INDICATE THAT HIJACKERS ARE BEATING PASSENGERS AND 
PILOT.  ACCORDING TO VOICE OF LEBANON RADIO, A PSP 
OFFICIAL IS REPORTEDLY AT AIRPORT TO CONDUCT 
NEGOTIATIONS WITH HIJACKERS.  AT 0910 ZULU, AIRCRAFT 
APPROACHED TERMINAL BUILDING;  PLANE THEN MOVED TO 
FUEL HYRDRANT AND, ACCORDING TO ASSISTANT AIRPORT 
MANAGER, REFUELING BEGAN AT 0912 Z. 
 
3.  ACCORDING TO "VOICE OF LEBANON" RADIO AND MFA, THE 
HIJACKERS BELONG TO THE "MUSA SADR (EL-HUSAYN) 
SUICIDE BRIGADE."  THIS IS THE SAME SHIA GROUP THAT 
CLAIMED RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE ALIA HIJACKING 
JUNE 11-12.  THEY ARE SAID TO BE THREE IN NUMBER AND 
TO BE ARMED WITH THREE MACHINE GUNS AND FIVE HAND 
GRENADES.  AT LEAST ONE OF THE HIJACKERS REPORTEDLY 
SPEAKS WITH A LEBANESE ACCENT CHARACTERISTIC OF THE 
BIQA' VALLEY. 
 
4.  EMBASSY HAS ESTABLISHED VISUAL CONTACT WITH THE 
AIRCRAFT FROM THE AMBASSADOR'S RESIDENCE IN YARZE. 
EMBASSY IS ALSO MONITORING AIRCRAFT/CONTROL TOWER 
COMMUNICATIONS. 
 
5.  MFA INFORMED US BEFORE PLANE TOUCHED DOWN THAT 
GOL (PRIME MINISTER KARAMI AND INTERIOR MINISTER 
SKAFF) HAD TAKEN DECISION NOT TO ALLOW THE PLANE TO 
LAND.  WE OBSERVED, HOWEVER, NO ATTEMPTS TO BLOCK 
THE RUNWAY.  NEITHER THE GOL NOR THE AIRPORT 
AUTHORITIES HAVE CONTROL OF THE AIRPORT.  DE FACTO 
CONTROL LIES IN THE HANDS OF THE PSP, AMAL, AND 
OTHER MILITIAS PRESENT AT THE AIRPORT.  WHILE 
AIRBORNE, ONE OF THE HIJACKERS REPORTEDLY PULLED THE 
PIN FROM A GRENADE, AND THE PILOT SAID THAT HE WAS 
GOING TO FORCE A LANDING WITH OR WITHOUT GOL 
PERMISSION.  TRANSPORATION MINISTER JUMBLATT 
REPORTEDLY ORDERED THAT THE PLANE BE ALLOWED TO LAND 
WHEN HE LEARNED IT WAS SHORT OF FUEL. 
 
6.  THE HIJACKERS HAVE NOT MADE KNOWN ANY DEMANDS 
OTHER THAN TO REQUEST FUEL. 
 
7.  AMBASSADOR IS URGENTLY ATTEMPTING TO CONTACT 
AMAL AND PSP LEADERS AND MIDDLE EAST AIRLINES 
OFFICIALS IN AN ATTEMPT TO HALT THE BEATING AND TO 
ENSURE THE SAFETY OF THE PASSENGERS SHOULD THEY BE 
DEPLANED HERE.  WE DO NOT WANT THE AMCIT PASSENGERS 
TO BE REMOVED FROM THE AIRPORT FOR ANOTHER LOCATION 
IN WEST BEIRUT, BUT RATHER PLACED ON THE NEXT 
AVAILABLE OUTBOUND FLIGHT. 
 
BARTHOLOMEW 

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