Hezbollah member wanted for role in 1985 hijacking dies

BEIRUT (AP), Ali Atwa, a senior Hezbollah operative, was listed on Saturday as the FBI's most wanted for his involvement in one of the most notorious hijackings of aviation history.
Hezbollah reported that Atwa, believed to be in his 60s, died from complications due to cancer.

Atwa, along with two other alleged hijackers of TWA Flight 847 in 1985, was listed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List in 2001. The 16-day ordeal began in Athens (Greece) on June 14th and ended with a U.S Navy diver aboard the plane being killed.

The hijackers demanded that Lebanese prisoners and Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons be released.

For information leading to Atwas' arrest, the FBI offered a $5,000,000 reward. Atwas was charged with conspiring to take hostages and committing air piratery that resulted in the death of an American. He also placed explosives on an aircraft.

After taking off from Athens, the flight with 153 passengers and crew members was headed for Rome. The hijackers took control of the plane.

The hijackers were able to allow the plane to land in Beirut. There, 19 American children and women were freed. The hijackers then flew to Algeria where they released more hostages before returning to Beirut.

After beating Robert Stethem unconscious, the hijackers shot dead U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem. They returned to Algeria again, released more passengers, and were joined at Athens by Atwa who, despite having failed to get a seat on the flight, was also arrested.

After his co-accomplices threatened with more hostages, Greek authorities released him. Atwa was captured in Athens hiding his face behind a bag during his release.

Demis Roussos from Greece was one of the passengers. He was later released in Beirut. The last 39 passengers were released in Damascus (Syria) on June 30.

Hundreds of Lebanese prisoners were freed from Israeli prisons days later.

Mohammed Ali Hammadi was one of the hijackers. He was captured in Frankfurt, then-West Germany, in 1987. He was convicted for the hijacking as well as Stethems murders. Hammadi was sentenced for life, but was released in 2005 and allowed to return to Lebanon.

Atwa was laid to rest on Saturday at Beirut's Hezbollah Funeral.