December 26, 1986 – A Mile-High Gun Battle – A Hostage Release
December 26, 1986 – You would think that, during the holidays, violence, mayhem, tragedy and hostage dramas would take the day off. But no, seems the best time as ever to stage something harrowing or dramatic – maybe out of a potentially slow news day, or maybe just the fact that the world continues to turn, despite some people in the world celebrating.
On this particular Day after Christmas, it was a foiled terrorist hijacking attempt that wound being a gun battle and a crash landing on a Saudi airstrip of an Iraqi Airways jet going from Baghdad to Amman Jordan. Although no one took immediate claim for the attempt, many concluded the hijackers were Iranian.Of the 107 on board, some 62 were killed.
The official announcement of the crash came from the Saudi Defense Ministry, which announced that a Boeing 737 with 107 people on board had crashed 60 miles inside Saudi territory. The Iraqi Airways jet overshot the Arar runway by 800 yards, the ministry said, and exploded and burned at 12:30 P.M.
The flight, the statement said, ”for some reason had to force land in Saudi territory.”
The flight carried 91 passengers, 15 crew members and a security man, the Saudi statement said. Saudi Arabia said there were 44 survivors. Jordan said in a statement there were 30 survivors. In Washington, the State Department said it was not aware that there were any Americans on the flight.
In announcing the crash and the number of fatalities, the Saudi Government made no mention of a hijacking. Commandeered, Jordan Says
It was unclear how many of the victims were killed in the crash and how many may have died as a result of gunfire and grenade explosions during the flight.
But on a more hopeful note – French hostage Aurel Cornea, the soundman of a four-person TV News crew captured by a pro-Iranian pro-Shiite Syrian Muslim group in Beirut was held for some 292 days before finally being released on Christmas Day. Cornea arrived in Paris the next day and was greeted by Prime Minister Jacques Chirac. The kidnappers, members of the Revolutionary Justice Organization, freed Mr. Cornea in Beirut on Wednesday in what was described as a Christmas gesture after mediation efforts by Syria, Iran and Algeria. The same group is thought to be holding two of six missing Americans, Joseph James Cicippio and Edward Austin Tracy.
All that and more, for a post-Christmas/Boxing Day dose of reality via The CBS World News Roundup.