Unarmed hijackers killed in train hijacking

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. Minister Ivo Opstelten (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Rijksoverheid.nl)

During the liberation of the train hijacked by Moluccas at De Punt in 1977, marines inside the train shot three hijackers that were unarmed and not resisting. These three were among the six hijackers who died in the assault. Two passengers were also killed. Three hijackers survived.

This is evident from an archive investigation that the Ministries of Justice and Defense have done into the rescue action. Some of the hijackers were shot dead at close range. The remains of the six killed hijackers contained 144 bullet wounds in total.

"We now know what happened then. The book can be closed after 37 year", said Minister Ivo Optselten on Wednesday at the presentation of the investigation. Optstelten and Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert conclude that the military action went according to plan. All information in this has proven correct, no rules were violated and the then government informed the Second Chamber completely and correctly.

The question that initiated this extensive investigation was whether the six  hijackers died in the heat of battle or were executed.

"There were no sign of ", Opstelten said several times during the presentation. "That has killing as a goal. The goal here was to protect the hostages." The order the marines, who had to free the hostages, got was "eliminate the hijackers or arrest if one clearly and observably surrenders".

Opstelten, Hennis and investigation leader, senior official of Justice Jan-Tom Bos, consider execution as the implementation of a preconceived plan. They never found a written order that the hijackers had to be killed. However, the risk that all hijackers could be killed, was included in the plan of attack. "That is explicitly faced and accepted", said Opstelten. "But that was not the goal." he emphasized. "That was the liberation and protection of the hostage passengers on the train."

The investigators mention that one statement of that time is not true - that in the train there was not fired on hijackers who did not resist with a firearm. Investigators state: "Weapons were found by the hijackers at the front of the train, but there are no indications that they resisted with them. No weapon was found afterward by the female hijacker that was shot."

That is a crucial finding for the relatives of the hijackers. "We call it an execution", said their lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld. because at least three of the six hijackers were killed at close range by being shot in the head and back, although they were presumably unarmed.

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