30 years ago today, Singapore Airlines 117 was hijacked while traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. Today, the Prime Minister of Singapore recalled the incident in a tweet, commending the bravery of military members who executed what turned out to be a tense rescue effort.
Remembering The Hijacking Of Singapore Airlines 117 + Heroic Rescue
SQ117, operated by an Airbus A310, took off from Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Kuala Lumpur enroute for Singapore on March 26, 1991. In the air, the flight was hijacked by four Pakistanis who claimed to represent the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). They were not armed with guns, but had knives and explosives.
The plane landed safely at 10:15PM in Singapore where a negotiating team was waiting. The hijackers demanded the release of Asif Ali Zardari, the husband of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who would later become President of Pakistan. They also demanded the plane be refueled so it could travel to Australia.
At 2:30AM, two flight attendants were pushed off and the plane moved to the outer tarmac. By 6:45AM, the hijackers warned they would begin killing passengers, one every 10 minutes, if their demands were not met within five minutes.
Two minutes later, a Singaporean commando team stormed the aircraft, killing all four hijackers. The leader was shot five times but remained alive. As he attempted to ignite an explosive device strapped to him, he was shot dead.
By 6:50AM, the aircraft was secure. No passengers or crew members were injured.
Today, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore remembered SQ117 in a tweet:
Older Singaporeans will recall the hijacking of SQ117. It happened 30 yrs ago tdy, on 26 Mar 1991. Then & now, our uniformed men & women are on guard, vigilantly safeguarding our peace & security. We salute them & give them our full support. – LHL https://t.co/K8DvCSwEgE
— leehsienloong (@leehsienloong) March 26, 2021
Check the account in the tweet above for more personal recollections of the hijacking incident.
With strict security screening and reinforced cockpit doors, we no longer live in an era of hijackings. It seems so foreign to recall how frequently they occurred just one generation ago.
I was not familiar with the details of SQ117 but now join Prime Minster Lee in saluting the commandos who successfully rescued the hostages without losing even one, 30 years ago today.
(H/T: SINJim // image: Konstantin von Wedelstaedt)