Hijacked: Terror in the Sky-EgyptAir Flight 648 [CNN Declassified: Untold Stories of American Spies]
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Hijacked: Terror in the Sky EgyptAir Flight 648 - CNN August 5, 2017
EgyptAir Flight 648 was a regularly scheduled international flight between Athens Ellinikon International Airport in Greece and Cairo International Airport in Egypt. On 23 November 1985, a Boeing 737-200 airliner, registered SU-AYH, servicing the flight was hijacked by the terrorist organization Abu Nidal. The subsequent raid on the aircraft by Egyptian troops resulted in dozens of deaths, making the hijacking of Flight 648 one of the deadliest such incidents in history.
On 23 November 1985, Flight 648 took off at 8 pm on its Athens-to-Cairo route. Ten minutes after takeoff, three Palestinian members of Abu Nidal hijacked the aircraft, the same group also responsible for the hijacking of Pan Am Flight 73 a year later. The terrorists, calling themselves the Egypt Revolution, were heavily armed with guns and grenades.[clarification needed] The terrorist leader, Omar Rezaq, proceeded to check all passports. At this point, an Egyptian Security Service agent, Mustafa Kamal, who was aboard, opened fire, killing one terrorist before being wounded along with two flight attendants. In the exchange of fire the fuselage was punctured, causing a rapid depressurization. The aircraft was forced to descend to 14,000 feet (4,300 m) to allow the crew and passengers to breathe.
Libya was the original destination of the hijackers, but due to a lack of fuel and negative publicity, Malta was chosen as a more suitable option. While approaching Malta the aircraft was running dangerously low on fuel, experiencing serious pressurization problems and carrying wounded passengers. However, Maltese authorities did not give permission for the aircraft to land; the Maltese government had previously refused permission to other hijacked aircraft, including on 23 September 1982 when an Alitalia aircraft was hijacked on its way to Italy. The EgyptAir 648 hijackers insisted, and forced the pilot, Hani Galal, to land at Luqa Airport. As a last-ditch attempt to stop the landing, the runway lights were switched off, but the pilot managed to land the damaged aircraft safely.
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