10 Terror Hostage Situations That Changed The World
10 Terror Hostage Situations That Changed The World

10 Terror Hostage Situations That Changed The World

Stephanie Schoppert - September 13, 2016

Rescuing a hostage is always taking a substantial risk. It is going into a hostile situation knowing that the enemy has hostages that they can use to their advantage. A hostage rescue can turn badly quickly with the loss of hostages or rescuers in the blink of an eye. In fact, many hostage rescue attempts do not have happy endings. Those that do involve planning and plenty of luck.

The following are the some of the most daring and dangerous hostage rescues in history and while they do save hostages they rarely did so without cost.

1. Operation Barras 2000

10 Terror Hostage Situations That Changed The World

On August 25th, 2000 a patrol of British soldiers, that was returning from a visit with Jordanian peacekeepers that were part of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone, were ambushed by heavily armed rebels. 11 soldiers and one Sierra Leone Army Liaison were taken prisoner and moved to Gberi Bana. The British Army attempted to get the hostages back through peaceful negotiation with the rebels who were known as the West Side Boys.

Five of the hostages were released through negotiations with the West Side Boys but afterward the demands became too unrealistic. The British Army saw no way forward with negotiations and decided to rescue the hostages. The Army feared that the hostages might be killed or moved which required fast action. Two villages were attacked at the same time, Gberi Bana, where the soldiers were, and Magbeni, as a diversionary tactic.

The 150 troopers were flown in by helicopter and fast roped down into the base under fire. It was during this initial stage that the British suffered their only casualty. The troops found the British soldiers as they shouted “British Army.” The Sierra Leone liaison was found in a squalid pit where he had been beaten and starved. Within 20 minutes the soldiers and their liaison were rescued and flown out by helicopter. The mission continued for another hour and a half. 22 civilians were also rescued while a 23rd civilian was killed in the crossfire.

By the end of the operation the British had 18 wounded soldiers, one seriously wounded, and one soldier killed. Every hostage but the one killed in crossfire was safely evacuated. The West Side Boys had 18 deaths and 25 members were taken prisoner. The mission was heralded as a success and proved Britain’s capability for mission in Sierra Leone.

10 Terror Hostage Situations That Changed The World

2. Moscow Theater Siege 2002

On October 23rd, 2002, 40 Chechen militants took over the Dubrovka Theater in Moscow. The militants took over the theater as a way to support the separatist movement in Chechnya. The theater proved almost impossible for a successful rescue which led the Russians to extreme tactics.

The Dubrovka Theater was designed in a way that made any raid on the theater nearly impossible. Troops entering the theater would have to enter though a narrow hallway and up a set of stairs. The rescuers would be sitting ducks to the terrorists who were guarding these areas. The terrorists also had several explosives which they planned to detonate if any rescue was attempted. On the first day over 150 people were released namely children, pregnant women, Muslims, foreigners and those with health issues. Hostages were used to relay the message to Putin to stop hostilities in Chechnya and not to storm the building.

On the second day numerous attempts at negotiation were made and 39 hostages were set free. Foreign leaders also began negotiations and the terrorists agreed to release the foreigners. On day three the terrorists agreed to the release of 75 foreign hostages and 15 Russian hostages. The Russians agreed to spare the lives of the terrorists if the rest of the hostages were released. Instead, two female hostages were killed during an altercation in the theater. This prompted the Russians to act.

With no safe way for soldiers to enter, it was decided that a chemical gas would be pumped into the theater. The gas was highly toxic and knocked everyone in the theater unconscious. All 40 of the terrorists were killed in the ensuing raid. However, 130 hostages also died as a result of adverse reactions to the gas. Following the crisis, many believed that the use of gas was excessive, but both America and Britain believed that the actions of the Russians were justified.

10 Terror Hostage Situations That Changed The World

3. Operation Jericho 1944

Operation Jericho can largely be seen as a hostage rescue gone wrong. While there were hostages that were freed in the rescue operation most were killed or recaptured. The Nazis also killed hundreds of prisoners in retaliation for the prison escape. However, the plan and the implementation of that plan make this one of the most dangerous hostage rescues in history.

Operation Jericho was an attempt to free the hundreds of political prisoners and resistance fighters that were being held at Amiens Prison following the Nazi occupation of France. The plan was to have Mosquito planes fly low to the ground and bomb the walls of the prison and thereby giving the prisoners a way to escape. This was a precision bombing mission for bombs that were not very precise and meant that the planes would have to fly a mere 50 feet above the ground in terrible weather.

There were 18 planes for the mission but 5 had to turn back before it even began due to mechanical issues. The remaining 13 bombed the prison, first striking the outer walls and then the guardhouse. Two planes also broke off and bombed the nearby train station to convince the Germans that it was a bombing raid on the city.

The rescue mission was very controversial as 102 prisoners died in the attack. 250 prisoners did escape but all but 70 were recaptured. Some prisoners even refused to leave because they feared German reprisal on their families. Following the mission and its failure (though it was announced as a success) many have wondered the real reason for the raid. Even today it is not clear if the French, British or Americans were the ones that ordered the raid and most believe there were other motives for attacking the prison in such matter that had nothing to do with rescuing prisoners.

10 Terror Hostage Situations That Changed The World

4. Operation Feuerzauber 1977

On October 13th, 1977 four Palestinian terrorists from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, calling themselves Commando Martyr Halima, hijacked Lufthansa Flight 181. The hijackers took the plane, which had been heading from Spain to Germany, on a flight path through the Mediterranean, Africa and the Middle East finding airports that would allow them to land to refuel. At one such stop the pilot of the plane left the aircraft at Aden airport to check its airworthiness. He took too long for the terrorists and when he returned they killed him.

The plane made a final stop in Mogadishu where the terrorists threw the body of the airline captain, Jürgen Schumann onto the tarmac. They announced the plane would be destroyed if the German government did not agree to release the Red Army Faction leaders within ten hours. The Germans had no intention of releasing the prisoners but they told the terrorists that it would take more time to get the prisoners to Mogadishu, so the deadline was extended to 2:30 in the morning.

In preparation to destroy the plane, the passengers were drenched in duty free spirits to ensure they would not survive. Germany sent 30 GSG 9 commandos who were trained in anti-terrorism to meet the plane. The commandos approached the plane in the middle of the night and entered through the doors near the fuselage. Somali soldiers created a distraction by lighting a fire several yards in front of the jet. This prompted the terrorists to go to the front of the plane and leaving the hostages in back. The commandos entered the jet and told all passengers to get down as they opened fire.

The assault was over in 5 minutes and all 86 passengers and 4 crew were rescued. Captain Jürgen Schumann and three of the hijackers were the only loss of life.

10 Terror Hostage Situations That Changed The World

5. Operation Nimrod 1980

On April 30th 1980, six heavily armed men entered the Iranian Embassy in London. 26 people were taken hostage including embassy staff, visitors and one police officer. The armed men were part of an Iranian Arab group called the Democratic Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Arabistan. The group demanded the release of prisoners that were held by the Iranian government.

At first British were willing to talk and negotiate with the hostage takers. They met small demands, such as airing their demands on television, and secured the release of five hostages. Then on the 6th day, the terrorists executed a hostage and threw his body out the window. The British decided that no more negotiations would take place and they sent in the Special Air Service (SAS), a highly trained and secretive regiment of the British Army.

The SAS abseiled down from the roof of the embassy and broke into the embassy through the windows. They stormed the embassy for a total of 17 minutes. One hostage was killed during the assault but the other hostages were rescued. Five of the terrorists were killed in the attack and only one was captured, he served 27 years in British prison.

The outcome of the mission was largely seen as a success, though the embassy did sustain some damage. The British and Iranian governments argued for ten years over who was responsible for repairing the damage. Eventually Britain decided to repair the Iranian Embassy and Iran would repair the British Embassy in Iran. The Operation also brought worldwide focus to the SAS with other countries requesting SAS assistance in training their own special forces. There was also a substantial influx of applications to join the SAS as British citizens were inspired by the bravery and heroism that they had seen on TV.

10 Terror Hostage Situations That Changed The World

6. Operation Isotope 1972

On May 8th, 1972 a passenger flight from Vienna to Tel Aviv was hijacked by four members of the Black September Organization, a Palestinian terrorist group. Sabena Flight 571 was a Boeing 707 aircraft with 97 passengers and crew aboard. The two men and two women acted as couples on the plane all while concealing handguns and explosives.

Twenty minutes into the flight the hijackers made their way into the cockpit. They took command of the plane and made it a point to separate the Jewish passengers and force them to the back of the plane. The hijackers forced the pilot, Captain Levy, to land the plan at Lod Airport. Once on the ground they demanded the release of 315 Palestinian prisoners in Israel. The terrorists said they would blow up the plane with all 97 people on board if their demands were not met.

Captain Levy managed to send a coded message to the Israelis asking for their help. The Defense Minister and the Transport Minister prepared a rescue operation known as Operation Isotope. 16 Sayeret Matkal commandos, including Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, were dispatched for the mission. On the night of May 8th, they disabled the plane. Captain Levy spent the time waiting for rescue talking with the hijackers about everything he could think of to distract them.

The following morning, the commandos appeared in worker’s coveralls explaining that the plane was in need of repair. Within two minutes of boarding the plane the male hijackers were killed. The women terrorists were captured and the hostages rescued. Three hostages were wounded in the exchange of gunfire on the plane, one of which later died from her injuries. Benjamin Netanyahu was the only commando wounded when another commando accidentally discharged his weapon.

The two women were sentenced to 220 years in prison but were released in 1983 as part of a prisoner exchange after the Lebanon War.

10 Terror Hostage Situations That Changed The World

7. Raid at Cabanatuan 1945

The Raid at Cabanatuan is considered the most successful rescue mission in U.S. history. At the Battle of Bataan in 1942 thousands of American soldiers surrendered and were taken prisoner. As American troops marched through the Philippines to take it back from the Japanese, it became apparent that the Japanese were brutally executing American POWs before they could be rescued. There were also concerns of disease, torture and starvation that would kill the men before General Douglas MacArthur and his forces could retake the Philippines and rescue them. Therefore, it was decided that a small group would advance first to Cabanatuan prison camp in order to rescue the men being held there.

On January 30th, 1945 a troop of 400 men that included American Rangers, Scouts and Filipino guerrillas surrounded the camp in the dark of night. A P-61 Black Widow provided a distraction and the men were able to surprise the Japanese forces. In a 30-minute planned attack, hundreds of Japanese soldiers were killed. The American and Filipino forces were also able to take out four tanks. There were some casualties as 2 American soldiers, and 2 prisoners were killed while 4 American soldiers and 21 Filipino guerrillas were wounded.

At its height Cabanatuan prison camp held thousands of prisoners, but at the time of the raid, many of them had been moved. When the rescuers entered the prison camp they found that most of the POWs were actually in hiding fearing that the gunfire meant the Japanese were massacring the prisoners. In the end some of the POWs had to be forcefully rescued. But the operation was a success with 489 POWs and 33 civilians rescued from the camp.

The raid also brought renewed vigor for the war against Japan as rescued POWs told of the Bataan Death March and the horrible conditions in the prison camp.

10 Terror Hostage Situations That Changed The World

8. Air France Flight 8969

On December 24th, 1994, an Air France flight was hijacked at Houari Boumedienne Airport in Algeria by members of the Armed Islamic Group. The four armed men boarded the plane wearing uniforms similar to those of presidential police. The men soon revealed that they were not police but mujahideen that were fighting to establish and Islamic state in Algeria.

The terrorists demanded the release of two Islamic Salvation Front leaders who were under arrest in Algeria. Meanwhile, the French were preparing their special forces for a raid on the plane despite the fact that Algeria told them French forces were not welcome. The terrorists learned of an Algerian police officer on the plane and shot him dead at the boarding stairs. When the Algerians refused to give into their demands they shot another passenger. The next day the cabin remained calm as the hijackers released several passengers, namely women and children.

By that evening the hijackers took two French passengers and told the Algerians to allow the plane to take off or they would kill them. The French demanded the plane be allowed to take off. The Algerians refused and one of the French passengers was killed. The French demanded that the plane be allowed to take off or Algeria would be held responsible for the outcome. The plane took off and landed in Marseille for refueling.

It was then the French learned that the terrorists planned to crash the plane in Paris. So they sent their GIGN operatives to the plane in disguise as aircraft servicemen. After observing the situation, they created a plan. They waited until nightfall, stalling the hijackers as long as possible while they waited for fuel. It wasn’t until the hijackers began threatening passengers and firing at the control tower, that the French special forces moved in. A firefight ensued. All of the remaining passengers and crew survived, though several passengers, crew and operatives were injured. All hijackers were killed.

10 Terror Hostage Situations That Changed The World

9. Bataclan Concert Hall 2015

The Bataclan Concert Hall on November 13, 2015 was hosting a crowd of 1,500 people who were watching the band Eagles of Death Metal. Then three dark-clad men with assault rifles entered the hall and fired into the crowd. The initial attack lasted 20 minutes as attackers fired at anyone that moved and survivors escaped through emergency exists. Some hid in bathrooms while others pretended to be dead on the floor.

At 10 pm the attackers had numerous hostages trapped within the theater and told police they planned to behead a hostage every five minutes. At 10:15 pm the Brigade of Research and Intervention along with the tactical unit RAID arrived at the theater. They entered the theater and made their way through the halls to rescue victims. Officers made slow progress through the theater as there were wounded hiding everywhere. At 11:15 officers reached a door that was locked. A hostage inside told police that two men with explosive vests were inside. The police were reluctant to enter the room under the fear that the terrorists would detonate their vests and kill everyone inside.

Hostages were shoved in front of the door and used as go-betweens for the police and the attackers. Using a mobile phone negotiators talked to the terrorists several times, finally realizing that the attackers planned to massacre the hostages in front of the media. The police were then ordered to enter the room. Hidden behind a shield that was struck 27 times by bullets, police shot the first terrorist. His vest detonated which prompted the second terrorist in the room to detonate his own vest.

In the end all of the terrorists within the theater died when their vests detonated. 89 people were killed in the attack on the concert hall and hundreds were wounded.

10 Terror Hostage Situations That Changed The World
Commandos loading the duplicate Mercedes onto the plane. http://www.ynetnews.com/

1. Operation Entebbe 1976

On the 27th of June an Air France plane with 248 passengers was taken over by two members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – External Operations and two members of German Revolutionary Cells. They demanded that 40 Palestinian prisoners in Israel and 13 prisoners in 4 other countries be released in exchange for the safe return of the hostages.

The flight began in Tel Aviv and was supposed to reach Paris, but the hijackers diverted the plan to Uganda. The Ugandan dictator Idi Amin was sympathetic to the hijackers and personally welcomed the terrorists. The passengers were taken off the plane and moved into an abandoned airport building. The attackers separated the Israelis and non-Israeli Jews from the main group of passengers and put them in another room. Over 2 days 148 passengers were released and flown to Paris.

94 passengers and the 12-person crew remained as hostages. The terrorists alerted that they planned to kill the hostages if their prisoner release demands were not met. For a week Israeli forces planned out a hostage rescue that involved flying 100 commandos to Uganda. The Israeli’s also brought along vehicles that looked just like President Idi Amin’s motorcade. However, when they reached the checkpoint they learned their Mercedes was the wrong color. The commandos killed the sentries and raced toward the terminal fearing the terrorists would be alerted.

The raid lasted 90 minutes with 102 hostages being rescued. Three hostages died in the raid and one Israeli Commando Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu was killed in the operation. The 7 hijackers, 45 Ugandan troops were also killed and several aircraft were destroyed. In retaliation Idi Amin issued the slaughter of hundreds of Kenyans in Uganda due to the support of Kenyan sources.