This Day In History: Flight 961 was hijacked by three Ethiopian men

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On November 23, 1996, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961 was flying from Addis Ababa to Nairobi when the plane was hijacked by three Ethiopians.

the three Ethiopian men charged the cockpit and hijacked the aircraft after taking an ax and a fire extinguisher from the cockpit. Ethiopian state-operated radio later identified the hijackers as two unemployed high-school graduates and a nurse; their names were Alemayehu Bekeli Belayneh, Mathias Solomon Belay, and Sultan Ali Hussein

The men threatened to blow the plane up in flight if the pilots did not obey their demands. which makes the deadliest hijacking in history until 9/11. When the hijackers demanded the plane be flown to Australia, where they demanded asylum threatening to blow up the plane mimicking a  bomb that was actually a covered bottle of liquor.

The plane was nearly out of fuel but the hijackers continued to ignore the captain’s warnings. Instead of flying towards Australia, the captain flew along the African coastline.  he was forced to ditch the plane, crashing into the Indian Ocean near Grande Comore, Comoros Islands. Of the 175 passengers and staff members from the flight, only 50 passengers, including U.S. Ambassador Frank Huddle, survived. Ambassador to Mauritius Harold W. Geisel flew to the small island and coordinated efforts to get the deceased Americans returned to the United States.

Survivors were initially taken to Mitsamiouli Hospital. The crash site was less than 2 kilometers away from this hospital. The passengers were transferred to El-Maarouf Regional Hospital Centre in Moroni the same day. The two French people who survived and 19 injured were transported toRéunion, one of the injured died, making the death toll 125. Excluding those transported to Réunion, survivors were transported to Kenya and South Africa.

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