EgyptAir Flight 648 is Hijacked by the Terrorist Abu Nidal Organization
On November 23, at 19:35 the EgyptAir Boeing 737 was hijacked by 3 men.
The Egyptian security guard who was onboard shot and killed one of the hijackers before being shot and wounded himself, along with two flight attendants. Although the hijackers demanded to be flown to Tunesia or Libya, they agreed to land at Malta for refueling were it landed at 21:15. At Malta, the two wounded cabin crew members were released, along with 11 women. Because Maltese authorities refused to refuel the plane unless all passengers were released, the hijackers threatened to kill a passenger every 10 minutes. A total of 5 additional people were shot and thrown off the aircraft, two of them were killed.
After 22 hours of negotiation the plane was stormed by Egyptian forces. In the fight which followed hand grenades were thrown into the passenger cabin, causing a fire.
Without warning, around an hour and a half before the planned time of the raid, the Egyptian commandos attacked the passenger doors and the luggage compartment doors with explosives. Maltese Prime Minister Mifsud Bonnici claims that these unauthorized explosions caused the internal plastic of the plane to catch fire, causing widespread suffocation. On the other hand, the Times of Malta, quoting sources at the airport on the day, held that when the hijackers realized that they were being attacked, they lobbed hand grenades into the passenger area, killing people and starting the fire inside.
The storming of the aircraft killed 56 (out of the remaining 88) passengers, two crew members, and one terrorist. Only one terrorist still remained undetected by the Maltese Government, Omar Mohammed Ali Rezaq, who in fact survived. Rezaq the terrorist leader, who was injured during the storming of the aircraft, got rid of his hood and ammunition and pretended to be an injured passenger. The Egyptian commandos tracked Rezaq to St. Luke's General Hospital and holding the doctors and medical staff at gun point, they entered the casualty ward looking for him. It was not until some of the other passengers in the hospital recognised him that he was eventually arrested.
A total of 58 out of the 90 passengers had died by the time the crisis was over.
Rezaq was put on trial in Malta, yet with no anti-terror legislation, he was tried on other charges. There was widespread fear that terrorists would hijack a Maltese plane or carry out a terror attack in Malta as an act of retribution. Rezaq was given a 25-year sentence of which he only served eight. His release caused a diplomatic incident between Malta and the U.S. because Maltese law strictly prohibited trying a person twice, in any jurisdiction, on charges connected to the same series of events (having wider limitations compared to classic double jeopardy). Following his immediate expulsion on release, he was nevertheless captured on arrival in Nigeria. After three months he was handed over to the U.S., brought before a U.S. court and sentenced to life imprisonment on October 7, 1996 with a no-parole recommendation.
The hijacking of an EgyptAir passenger jet to Malta has ended in violence and further bloodshed after the plane was stormed by Egyptian commandoes.
At least 50 passengers, including children, and up to six hijackers died in the gunfight and explosion which followed the decision to send in the troops.