BBC News amplifies Hizballah hijacking denial

The BBC apparently believes that amplification of a terror group's denials enhances audience understanding.

On September 21st the BBC News website published a report headlined “TWA Flight 847: Greek police arrest aircraft hijacking suspect” which opened by telling readers that: [emphasis added]

“A 65-year-old Lebanese man suspected of involvement in the hijacking of an American airliner in 1985 has been arrested in Greece, police say.

The man, who has not been named, was detained on Mykonos after disembarking from a cruise ship on Thursday.

His identity came up as being wanted by Germany during a passport check.

The TWA Flight 847 was seized by militants thought to belong to the Islamist group Hezbollah, a claim they denied. A US navy diver was killed.”

In other words, in just one sentence the BBC managed to portray airline hijackers as “militants” and a terrorist organisation as an “Islamist group” as well as to suggest to audiences that the hijackers’ connections to Hizballah are still in doubt thirty-four years after the event and to amplify the terrorist organisation’s related denials.

By contrast, a Columbia District Court ruling states that:

“On June 14, 1985, two Hezbollah hijackers boarded TWA Flight 847 leaving Athens, Greece headed for Rome, Italy.”

Hizballah expert Matthew Levitt has stated that in 1985:

“…the group hijacked TWA Flight 847; one of the hijackers, Muhammad Ali Hamadi, was arrested two years later in the Frankfurt airport ferrying explosives to other operatives in Europe, illustrating the extent to which Hezbollah was operating in the West.” 


“On June 14, 1985, two Hezbollah hijackers took over TWA Flight 847 just after it took off from Athens en route to Rome. Over the course of 17 days, a short flight turned into a terrifying 8,500 mile journey around the Mediterranean that led to the murder of U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem.”


“Mohammad Ali Hamadi is still wanted by U.S. authorities for his role in one of Hezbollah’s earliest terrorist acts. In June, 1985, Hamadi and another Hezbollah operative hijacked TWA Flight 847. For 15 days the story dominated headlines as the plane crisscrossed the Middle East, making Hezbollah a household name. Hamadi is believed to be the one who shot U.S. Navy diver Robert Stetham in the head and tossed his body onto the tarmac. That November, Hamadi was indicted by the U.S. government for his role in the hijacking and Stethem’s murder. In 1987, German authorities arrested Hamadi at Frankfurt airport and found liquid explosives in his luggage. He was imprisoned in Germany until 2005, when he was released on parole and returned to Lebanon.”

In 2005 the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported that:

“Apparently ignoring Washington’s extradition request for Mohammed Ali Hamadi, German authorities have secretly released the Lebanese Hezbollah member who was serving a life sentence in the country for the hijacking of a TWA jet and for the murder of a US navy diver.”

Nevertheless the BBC apparently believes that audience understanding of this story will be enhanced by its amplification of Hizballah’s denial of involvement in that hijacking which – coincidentally or not – also appears in the first paragraph of the relevant Wikipedia entry.


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