Hijacking of the Achille Lauro: a chronology
The hijacking last Monday of an Italian liner set off a sequence of events involving ties between the United States, Egypt, Italy, and Yugoslavia. The events include: Oct. 7 -- Four Palestinians seize Achille Lauro, with more than 400 passengers and crew aboard, off Egyptian coast. Hijackers demand release of 50 Palestinian prisoners by Israel. Oct. 8 -- Liner sails for Syria which refuses it entry. Ship anchors off Port Said. Egyptian and PLO officials negotiate with hijackers. Oct. 9 -- Hijackers surrender and Egyptian officials say they will leave Egypt. Prime Minister Bettino Craxi announces that 69-year-old Leon Klinghoffer, a wheelchair-bound American, was killed. In Cyprus, sources claim the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), loyal to PLO chief Yasser Arafat, carried out hijacking. Sources say original plan was to to carry out guerrilla attack in Ashdod, Israel, the next port of call. Oct.10 -- Despite US objections, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announces Palestinian gunmen have left Egypt. In fact, they are still in Cairo, and several hours later Mr. Mubarak explains he was unaware of this. Egypt's desire to improve standing in Arab world seen as prompting release of hijackers.
Palestinians leave in evening aboard Egyptian airliner, accompanied by Egyptian officials and two PLO leaders. After plane is refused landing permission in Tunisia and Greece, it is intercepted by US F-14 fighter planes which force it to land at US-Italian military base in Sigonella, Sicily. Oct. 11 -- Reagan asks that Italy extradite hijackers to face trial in US, but concedes to Craxi's insistence that Italy try them because Achille Lauro is Italian flagship. Oct. 12 -- The Palestinians are charged by Italian magistrates with kidnapping, murder, and terrorism.
In Rome, a crisis develops over PLF leader Muhammad (Abul) Abbas, one of the PLO officials on Egyptian plane. US says he masterminded hijack and demands his extradition. Italian judge dismisses this demand on ground of insufficient evidence. The US claims it has proof -- transcripts of discussions between the hijackers and Mr. Abbas.
Abbas and second PLO official are allowed to leave Italy aboard a Yugoslav airliner for Belgrade. Fear of outburst of Palestinian terrorism seen behind Italian move. Oct. 13 -- US protests to Italy over Abbas's departure and asks Yugoslavia, which recognizes PLO, to extradite him. Oct. 14 -- Conflicting reports on whether or not Abbas has left Yugoslavia. PLO officials in Yugoslavia and Yugoslav news agency say Abbas has left. The US was seeking confirmation from Yugoslav authorities of report of Abbas's departure at press time.