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34 Years After TWA Hijacking, an Arrest

Greek police are holding Lebanese national in 1985 hijacking that killed American Navy diver
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 22, 2019 5:31 AM CDT
In this June 19, 1985 file photo, a hijacker points a weapon toward an ABC crew from the cockpit of a TWA jet as they approach for an interview at Beirut International Airport. Greek police said Sept....   (AP Photo/Herve Merliac, File)

(Newser) – Greek police said Saturday they arrested a suspect in the 1985 hijacking of a flight from Athens that became a multi-day ordeal and included the slaying of an American. Police said a 65-year-old suspect was arrested Thursday on the island of Mykonos in response to a warrant from Germany. Police rep Lt. Col. Theodoros Chronopoulos told the AP that the hijacking case involved TWA Flight 847, a flight that was commandeered by hijackers shortly after taking off from Athens on June 14, 1985. It originated in Cairo and had San Diego as a final destination, with stops scheduled in Athens, Rome, Boston, and Los Angeles. The hijackers shot and killed US Navy diver Robert Stethem, 23, after beating him unconscious. They released the other 146 passengers and crew during an ordeal that included stops in Beirut and Algiers. The last hostage was freed after 17 days.

The suspect was set to be transferred to a high security prison in Athens for extradition, a police rep said, adding that he was a Lebanese citizen. Beirut's Foreign Ministry said the man is a Lebanese journalist called Mohammed Saleh, and that a Lebanese diplomat planned to try to visit him on Sunday. However, several Greek media outlets identified the detainee as Mohammed Ali Hammadi, who was arrested in Frankfurt in 1987 and convicted in Germany for the hijacking and Stethem's slaying. Hammadi, an alleged Hezbollah member, was sentenced to life in prison but was paroled in 2005 and returned to Lebanon. Germany had resisted pressure to extradite him to the US after Hezbollah abducted two Germans in Beirut and threatened to kill them. Hammadi, along with fellow hijacker Hasan Izz-Al-Din and accomplice Ali Atwa, remains on the FBI's list of most wanted terrorists.

(Read more plane hijacking stories.)

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