A hijacker linked to the Japanese Red Army may have tried to seize control of a Malaysian aircraft in December 1977 that ended with the deaths of all 100 aboard.
JOHOR, MALAYSIA – Some airplane hijackings end in disaster: it is probably not a good idea for the hijacker to kill the pilot and co-pilot.
The other day I found myself in Commissioner’s Park in Ottawa. It is a lovely space, overlooking what is called Dow’s Lake, part of the iconic Rideau Canal system. Even as the snow we have been getting was melting and the ground was muddy, it was still a nice walk.
In that park are several memorials, some placed there by the Dutch government to commemorate Canada’s contribution in liberating the Netherlands from the Nazis in WWII. In fact, Ottawa’s beautiful Tulip Festival every spring is a gift from an ever grateful Holland for the sacrifices of our armed forces 75 years ago.
One of these memorials is a plaque commemorating the downing of Air India flight 182 on June 23, 1985 in what was at the time the single greatest terrorist attack against a commercial airliner in history. We knew who were behind that heinous act: Canadian Sikh extremists.
A similar act eight years earlier is less well understood. An armed man hijacked Malaysia Airlines flight 653 on December 4, 1977. Shots were heard to come from the cockpit and the plane soon after plunged into a swamp in Malaysia’s Johor state. It is likely the shots killed both the pilot and co-pilot, leaving the plane uncontrolled.
The police said that an 18‐year‐old boy in the village had told them he saw the jet “shoot upward” then go into a dive and explode in flames.
Before they died, the pilot and co-pilot were heard to say over the cockpit voice recorder that the hijacker was from the Japanese Red Army (JRA), a terrorist group that sought to overthrow the monarchy and ‘foment world revolution’. The group was active in the 1970s and 1980s.
It has never been established that the JRA was behind the attack. It is likely that there never will be any definitive answer as to who was responsible for this crime. A memorial to the victims has been placed near the site of the crash.