Terrorism's War with America: A History

By Dennis Piszkiewicz | Go to book overview

Province, where he attempted to land at a small, unlighted airstrip. His skills as a pilot were not up to the task. The plane jumped all over the sky; luggage fell from the overhead racks, and passengers were screaming and vomiting. A man in fatigues ran out of the cockpit and braced himself in an open seat. Moments later, the airliner crashed into the dark waters of Nipe Bay.

Rescuers managed to pull three severely injured survivors from the water. The seventeen others on board the airplane were killed. 2

People with political agendas had been hijacking airplanes for decades before the Cubana Airlines flight from Miami to Varadero reached its deadly conclusion. The first recorded hijacking is that of a small commercial aircraft by Peruvian revolutionaries in 1930. The dissidents had the pilot carry them aloft so that they could bomb Peru with propaganda leaflets.

As the Cold War was cranking up in the late 1940s and early 1950s, political dissidents commandeered aircraft of all types as means of transportation to geographies where the politics were more to their liking. Both the Western countries and the Soviet-dominated states welcomed hijackers seeking asylum. Historical records of these early hijackings are meager, but what has been compiled indicates that they were relatively harmless events. In more than thirty hijackings—none of which involved American aircraft or hijackers—most airplane crews, passengers, and hijackers came through their experiences unharmed, but there were exceptions. In the hijacking of one plane from Bulgaria to Turkey in 1948, the pilot and copilot were injured. In another incident that took place in 1947, a private aircraft was forced to fly from Romania to Turkey. One report of this incident suggests that the hijackers killed an uncooperative crew member; but because of an absence of records, the death could not be confirmed. The hijackings of early Cold War were followed by a period of peace in the skies; there were no reported hijackings of airplanes in the years 1953 through 1957. 3

The year 1958 marked the return of airplane hijacking—soon to be renamed “skyjacking” and “air piracy”—as a means of achieving political ends, and its emergence as a tactic in international battles. In February and April of that year, airliners were reported to have been hijacked from South Korea, both apparently without casualties. Only one made a successful trip to North Korea. The American press paid little attention to either incident.

On October 22, 1958, Castro’s partisans took a Cuban domestic flight, a twin-engine DC-3. Ten days later, the flight from Miami to Varadero crashed after being commandeered by the four inept guerrillas. At the time, observers speculated that it had been taken to interfere with transportation of troops to Oriente Province, the stronghold of Fidel Castro’s rebel forces. 4 Then five days after that, another Cubana DC-3 with twenty-five passengers was hijacked. It landed in territory controlled by Fidel

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Terrorism's War with America: A History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Chapter 1 - Skyjackers 1
  • Chapter 2 - Who Are the Terrorists? 9
  • Chapter 3 - Nationalists, Communists, and Insurgents 15
  • Chapter 4 - The Palestine Liberation Organization and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine 21
  • Chapter 5 - The Holy War 37
  • Chapter 6 - Reagan Takes on Terrorism 43
  • Chapter 7 - Muammar Qaddafi 61
  • Chapter 8 - Saddam Hussein 71
  • Chapter 9 - The Blind Sheikh and the Mastermind of Terror 83
  • Chapter 10 - America in Retreat 99
  • Chapter 11 - Osama Bin Laden 107
  • Chapter 12 - Al Qaeda’s War 113
  • Chapter 13 - The Past and the Future 127
  • Epilogue 137
  • Appendix 1 141
  • Appendix 2 145
  • Appendix 3 147
  • Appendix 4 165
  • Selected Bibliography 191
  • Index 195
  • About the Author 203
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