Thursday, October 13, 1977, began as just another routine trip for the crew of Lufthansa Flight 181, as the Boeing 737 departed the island of Palma de Mallorca bound for Frankfurt Germany. On board, 86 passengers and 5 crew members went about their business, while the coast of mainland Europe slipped by below them. Little did they know that they would never reach their destination.
Some 30 minutes into the flight, 2 men and 2 women wearing Che Guevera T-shirts rose from their seats brandishing pistols and hand grenades, while shouting commands to the passengers. They called themselves Commando Martyr Halime, and their leader, a Palestinian with the alias ‘Martyr Mahmud‘, forced his way into the cockpit and ordered the copilot to join the passengers.
Jurgen Schumann, the pilot, listened as Mahmud told him to set course for Cyprus. Schumann countered saying they didn’t have enough fuel and would have to land in Rome first. It was here that a conspiracy revealed itself.
Siegfried Hausner Commando, a faction of the German pro-communist terrorist organization known as the Red Army Faction, had allied themselves with the hijackers and demanded the release of ten RAF compatriots from a German prison, along with two Palestinians held in Turkey. In addition, they wanted 15 million dollars or all the passengers would die. Germany began negotiations, and at 5:45 P.M., the jet lifted off without clearance and headed for Cyprus.