The Achille Lauro Hi–Jacking

On 7 October 1985, four members of the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF) took control of the Italian cruise liner Achille Lauro off Egypt, as she was sailing from Alexandria to Port Said. After being refused permission to dock at Tartus, in Syria, the hijackers killed a 69–year–old passenger named Leon Klinghoffer, and threw his body overboard. Klinghoffer was a retired American Jew, a former appliance manufacturer, who was disabled and confined to a wheelchair.

The ship then headed back towards Port Said. After two days of negotiations, the hijackers agreed to abandon the liner in exchange for safe conduct and were flown towards Tunisia aboard an Egyptian commercial airliner. This plane, however, was intercepted by US fighter aircraft and directed to land in Sicily, where the hijackers were to be tried for murder, but could not be extradited. They were paroled and given passage to Yugoslavia, where they escaped.

The hi–jacking was the subject of a controversial opera by the US composer John Adams, whose other works include Nixon in China (1987). Klinghoffer's two daughters, and others, have alleged that the opera, entitled The Death Of Klinghoffer, is antisemitic and glorifies terrorism.

© Haydn Thompson 2017