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Hijacked 'Landshut' plane back in Germany

September 23, 2017

The German aircraft was hijacked by Palestinian militants in 1977 and taken to Somalia. The plane, which is a reminder of the so-called "German Autumn," will now be put on display at a museum in Friedrichshafen.

Brazil takes apart the German Lufthansa plane Landeshut
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/P. Wagner

After 40 years, "Landshut" had its homecoming on Saturday. An Antonov 124 cargo plane brought the majority of the Boeing 737 aircraft in pieces from Brazil's Fortaleza International Airport to the southern German city of Friedrichshafen.

The Lufthansa airplane had been hijacked by Palestinian extremists in 1977 while flying from Mallorca to Frankfurt. 

Landhut's remaining pieces are expected to arrive on Wednesday. The plane will then be reassembled and put on display at the Dornier Museum, an aviation and aerospace museum.

'Living symbol of free society'

The plane's Flight 181 was hijacked on October 13, 1977, by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which was assumed to be working with the Red Army Faction (RAF), a far-left insurgent group in West Germany. The four hijackers sought the release of 11 imprisoned RAF members, among other things.

The RAF, which the West German government considered to be a terrorist group, had assassinated West Germany's Attorney General Siegfried Buback earlier that year. The left-wing militants also kidnapped and murdered Industrialist Hanns Martin Schleyer and Jürgen Ponto, the head of the Dresdener Bank. The series of events was later dubbed the "German Autumn."

After being hijacked, the "Landshut," named after a city in Bavaria, was eventually taken to Somalian capital of Mogadishu on October 17, 1977. The extremists had executed the plane's captain Jürgen Schumann in Aden, a city in present-day Yemen where they had stopped for refueling.

The hijacking drama finally ended after German elite commandos killed three of the four hijackers and rescued all 86 passengers. One commando and four passengers were injured in the exchange.

"To this day, the rescue of the 'Landshut' is a living symbol of a free society, which cannot be defeated by fear and terror," Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in July.

Gathering dust

The Landshut resumed services a few weeks after the hijacking. Lufthansa then sold the plane in 1985, and it ended up in the fleet of Brazilian carrier TAF Linhas Aereas.

TAF then decommissioned the plane in January 2008 and stored it in the Fortaleza airport, where it had been gathering dust until a few weeks ago.

The German Foreign Ministry bought the plane in July for about €20,000 ($23,900) from Brazilian airport operator Infraero.

ap/cmb (dpa, AFP)