International

Senior Hezbollah member Ali Atwa wanted for role in 1985 kidnapping, dies

By The Associated Press

Beirut: Ali Atwa, a senior Hezbollah operative who was on the FBI’s Most Wanted list for his role in one of the most infamous plane hijackings in aviation history, has been killed, the Lebanese terrorist group said on Saturday.

Hezbollah said Atwa, who was believed to be in his early 60s, died of complications related to cancer.

Atwa was listed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list in 2001 and along with two other alleged participants in the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847.

The test, which began on June 14 in Athens, Greece, lasted 16 days and resulted in the death of a US Navy diver on board the plane.

The hijackers demanded the release of Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons.

The FBI offered a reward of $5 million to anyone providing information leading to Atwa’s arrest.

He was charged with conspiracy to take hostages, piracy that led to the killing of an American, and placing explosives on a plane.

The flight, with 153 passengers and crew members including 85 Americans, was commanded by hijackers after taking off from Athens bound for Rome.

The plane was allowed to land in Beirut, where the hijackers freed 19 American women and children.

They then went to Algeria before returning to Beirut, where more hostages were released.

There the hijackers beat to death 23-year-old US Navy diver Robert Statham in an unconscious state.

They then returned to Algeria, releasing more passengers and joined by Atava, who failed to get a seat on the flight and was arrested at Athens airport.

The Greek authorities let him go after his companions threatened to kill more hostages.

Atava was filmed in Athens covering his face with a bag during his release.

Among those on the flight was Greek singer Demis Roussos, who was released in Beirut.

On June 30, the last 39 passengers were freed in Damascus, Syria.

A few days later, hundreds of Lebanese prisoners were released from Israeli prisons.

One of the kidnappers, Mohamed Ali Hammadi, was arrested in 1987 in Frankfurt, then West Germany, and convicted of kidnapping and murder of Stethem.

Hammadi was sentenced to life imprisonment, but was released on parole in 2005 and returned to Lebanon.

Hezbollah for Atwa was cremated in Beirut on Saturday.

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