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calendar   Sunday - October 09, 2005

I Remember Leon Klinghoffer

Twenty years ago, last Friday ... on October 7, 1985, four men representing the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) took control of the liner Achille Lauro off Egypt while she was sailing from Alexandria to Port Said within Egypt. The well-armed men, who belonged to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the terrorist wing of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) led by Abu Abbas, easily took control of the vessel since there was no security force on board.

Abbas had been responsible for many attacks on Israel and its citizens in the early 1980s. On multiple occasions, he sent men on hang gliders and in hot air balloons on bombing missions to Israel, all of which turned out to be miserable failures. In an attempt to salvage his reputation, Abbas ordered the hijacking of the Achille Lauro. Yet there were no specific goals or demands set forth in the mission.

At first, the terrorists demanded that Israel release imprisoned PFLP members and sought entry to a Syrian port. But when Syria denied the request, the terrorists lost control of the situation. Gathering the American tourists on board, the terrorists chose to kill 69-year-old Leon Klinghoffer because he was Jewish. The wheelchair-bound American was shot in the head and thrown overboard. The world’s outrage forced PLO chief Yassir Arafat to cut PLO ties with the terrorists and to demand that Abbas end the situation.

The ship headed back towards Port Said, and after two days of negotiations the hijackers agreed to abandon the liner for safe conduct and were flown towards Tunisia aboard an Egyptian commercial airliner. That is where Colonel Oliver North and President Ronald Reagan entered the picture. (When asked if the operation should proceed to force down the EyptiAir plane carrying Abul Abbas and other terrorists who had hijacked the Achille Lauro, President Ronald Reagan said: “Good God! They’ve murdered an American here. Let’s get on with it.") Here is how Colonel North describes what happened ....

Back at the White House, we drafted a strong personal message for President Reagan to send to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, asking him to turn the terrorists over to us—or at least to the Italians, as we learned that Arafat and Abbas had struck a deal with Mubarak that if the terrorists surrendered to the Egyptians they would be given safe passage out of the country.

While that information was true, it was the timing of their exit that was in question. In the Situation Room on Thursday morning, I found a cable informing us that the Egyptians allowed the four terrorists to leave the country. Mubarak claimed ignorance to the validity of the report, the terrorists’ whereabouts and the murder of Klinghoffer. After checking with numerous sources in Washington and around the world, we learned that not only were the terrorists still in Egypt, but that they would be flying out that night, with the help of the Egyptians, and Abul Abbas would be on the plane with them.

We devised a plan for F-14 Tomcats flying off the Sixth Fleet’s USS Saratoga to intercept the plane and force it down at a base in Sigonella, Sicily, so we could take the terrorists into custody and fly them back to the United States to stand trial. A team of Special Operations Forces had been dispatched overseas days earlier, believing that they would have to board the Achille Lauro and take out the terrorists on the ship.

It was a difficult, dangerous mission, but Navy pilots and Special Ops Forces executed it to the letter. The problem began when the Italian national police involved themselves and demanded custody of Abbas and his terrorists. Since a shoot-out with the Italians would have been a political disaster, we had to entrust them with custody of Abbas and his henchmen. Abbas was separated from the others and eventually was put on a plane in Rome where he made his way to Yugoslavia to Tunisia to Damascus to Baghdad.

And where are the terrorists now ....?

Coalition Captures Terrorist In Baghdad
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 16, 2003 - Coalition special operations personnel in Baghdad captured Palestinian terrorist Abu Abbas April 14, U.S. Central Command officials said today. Abu Abbas, also known as Mohammad Abbas, planned the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise liner Achille Lauro in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. In the course of that hijacking a wheelchair-bound American citizen, Leon Klinghoffer, was murdered.

Abbas lived in a southern Baghdad. “Abbas was described as the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Front,” said Army Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks during a briefing at Qatar. “Abu Abbas is a terrorist. He was a terrorist and he remains a terrorist, and he will be viewed as such.”

Brooks, the vice chief of operations at the command, said Abu Abbas’ role in terrorism and his links to other terrorist organizations are clear. “Perhaps what’s more important: He was found in Baghdad,” he said. “We’ve said for a long time that Baghdad and Iraq, and the regime that no longer exists, have harbored terrorists, have provided a safe haven for terrorists and in some cases have facilitated the operations of terrorists.”

UPDATE - April 22, 2003
Yasser Arafat (PLO) has launched a campaign for the release of Abbas.

UPDATE - March 9, 2004
Mohammed Abul Abbas died of a heart attack today in Iraq while in the custody of the United States. Although an autopsy will be performed, Abbas’ death has been attributed to his declining poor health over the past several years.

image

imageimageAs for Leon Klinghoffer, he was just a retired appliance manufacturer from New York who was disabled and used a wheelchair for mobility. He and his wife, Marilyn Klinghoffer, both Jewish-Americans, were celebrating their 36th wedding anniversary in 1985 when four evil men, products of a culture of bloodlust and murder decided he should die a horrible death ... because he was a Jew.

Klinghoffer was buried at Beth David Memorial Park in Kenilworth, New Jersey. Four months after Leon Klinghoffer’s murder, Marilyn Klinghoffer died of colon cancer. His daughters are Ilsa and Lisa.


image

And finally .... the Achille Lauro, the cruise ship that was supposed to be a life-long dream vacation for a poor, tired, handicapped old man and his wife who was dying of cancer? The ship continued in service; she was reflagged in 1987 when the Lauro Line became StarLauro. On November 30, 1994, she caught fire off the coast of Somalia. Abandoned, the vessel sank on December 2.



Thus ends our story. Or does it?

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Posted by The Skipper   United States  on 10/09/2005 at 11:53 AM   
Filed Under: • OutrageousTerrorists •  
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