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The American Hijacker

The Hijacking

Quotes September 6, 1970 was the fateful day when Patrick Arguello boarded an El Al plane with a revolutionary colleague, Leila Khaled, and concealed weapons. The flight crew foiled their hijacking, and Arguello was carried off the plane in London, mortally wounded or perhaps already dead, after an emergency landing.

Photo of Patrick Arguello

About 20 minutes after taking off, when the plane had almost reached its cruising altitude, we heard a scream from the economy section. The purser told me to go back to economy and see what was happening... I entered the first class cabin. It was empty. Then I saw a fist tear the curtain. A nice looking man in his early twenties was looking at me. He had a grenade in one hand, a pistol in the other. He said, in English, "Open the cockpit door."

Michal Adar, flight attendant

We ran towards the cockpit. We passed through the first class -- it was a matter of seconds. I heard some shooting and then I saw someone in first class grabbing the telephone and trying to call someone. I showed them the two activated hand grenades and asked them to open the door. One of the flight attendants was also banging on the door saying, "Open! Open!" Someone looked through the peephole but did not open the door.

Leila Khaled, hijacker

We heard the knocks on the door and the purser Abraham rang, calling us on the intercom. He told me: "There are a male and a female hijacker. They demand that you should open the cockpit door, otherwise they will kill and blow up the plane."

I decided that we were not going to be hijacked. The security guy was sitting here ready to jump. I told him that I was going to put the plane into negative-G mode. Everyone would fall. When you put the plane into negative, it's like being in a falling elevator. Instead of the plane flying this way, it dives and everyone who is standing falls down.

Uri Bar Lev, El Al captain

His idea wasn't to hurt anyone... the idea was to bring it to the attention of the world. And they thought by hijacking these planes, they'd show the world listen, this is what's going on in Palestine, this is the injustice... I don't believe that the idea was to get anybody hurt. It's just that they wanted the attention...

Rose Arguello, sister

Never, never, never did he imply that he was involved as deeply as we would later find out he was involved. He kept to himself.

What he did and what I knew were so far apart. Of course, I wanted to verify it... They opened the coffin and there he was... but funny, it didn't look like him, mainly I think because he had tinted his hair...

Robert Arguello, brother

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Hijacked American Experience