On 13th October 1977 a Lufthansa Boeing 737 departed from Majorca bound for Frankfurt with 91 passengers and crew, most of whom were holidaymakers returning home. Two of the couples aboard were terrorists armed with handguns and explosives; the two men stormed the flight deck after take-off and ordered the pilot to head for Rome while the two women held the cabin crew at gunpoint.
They identified themselves as members of the Red Army faction and broadcast their demands to the Spanish air traffic control, a ransom of £10 million and the release of 11 members of the Baader-Meinhoff gang who were imprisoned in West Germany.
The 737 refuelled at Rome and then flew on to Cyprus and to Bahrain where it stayed overnight. Germany dispatched its GSG9 team aboard a 707 with 30 men. The Germans asked the SAS for help and Major Alastair Morrison and Sergeant Barry Davis were sent to help, heading for the gulf to meet up with GSG9. They took with them specially-designed SAS stun grenades.
The hijacked 737 left Bahrain on Friday 14th October, and headed for Dubai where the West German ambassador tried to negotiate all day with no success. The hijacked jet flew out again before night fell, announcing their destination as Masirah Island off Oman, but instead heading for Salalah in the Dhofar province. They found the runway there blocked and instructed the pilot to head to Aden. The pilot made a heavy landing at Aden and got out to inspect the undercarriage, then sprinted to the control tower and told officials where the explosives had been placed.
The hijackers demanded his return on threat of blowing up the jet and the Yemenis complied, returning Captain Schumann. The pilot was then forced to take off again, and once he handed over to his co-pilot was taken back to the passenger cabin and shot in the back of the head in front of the passengers.
The aircraft touched down next in Mogadishu where the pilot’s body was thrown out. GSG9 prepared for action.
At 0200 hours, 45 minutes before the hijackers latest deadline expired, the GSG9 team approached the aircraft undetected. They grouped under the fuselage in small squads underneath each access and emergency escape doors. With a given signal the doors were blown and stun grenades lobbed in,, which blinded and deafened all within. The GSG9 team entered through lightweight ladders, and clad in protective ear and eye gear the assault team burst in.
The terrorists were caught off guard and all four were identified and shot. The terrorist leader threw two grenades into the passengers cabin before dying, but these exploded under the seats harmlessly. The second male terrorist and one of the female terrorists died, but the fourth terrorist survived despite several bullet wounds.
The British government confirmed, shortly afterwards, that the SAS had been involved in planning the operation and carrying out the raid as part of the GSG9 team.