Most Daring Hostage Rescues

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3 / 6

No. 3 Operation Magic Fire (1977)

When Captain Jurgen Schumann lifted Lufthansa Flight 181 off the tarmac at the Majorca airport in Spain on October 13, 1977, he had every intention of flying to Frankfurt. What followed instead was a four-day nightmare as the Boeing 737, its five flight crew and 84 passengers were hijacked by four members of the "Commando Martyr Halime” – a Palestinian terrorist organization. The hijackers, lead by Zohair Youssif Akache (who dubbed himself “Captain Mahmud") demanded the release of 10 Red Army Faction (RAF) terrorists held by the Germans, two Palestinians being held in Turkey and $15 million. During the days-long ordeal, the plane traversed the Mediterranean and the Middle East, making stops in Cyprus, Bahrain, Dubai, and Yemen, where Captain Schumann was murdered by the Akache for an extended trip outside the plane to inspect for damage. The final stop was Mogadishu, Somalia, where unbeknownst to the hijackers, commandos from West Germany’s GSG 9, were en route. The GSG 9 was established in the aftermath of the tragic Munich Masscare in 1972, when nine Israeli athletes were murdered by Palestinian terrorists during a botched rescue attempt. On October 17, after dumping the body of Captain Schumann from the plane and having been fed misinformation from German negotiators, Akache waited for his demands to be met. He was instead met with a hail of bullets as GSG 9 commandos stormed the plane, killing two other hijackers and capturing a fourth. The remaining flight crew and all the passengers were saved by Operation Feuerzauber (Magic Fire), a rescue mission that took less than 7 minutes.

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