Soldiers speak out: 1977 train hijacking ended according to rules

Hostage situation at De Punt (day 14), negotiators leave
Hostage situation at De Punt (day 14), negotiators leavePeters, Hans / AnefoWikimedia CommonsCC-0

Three commanders of the marines involved in ending a train hijacking at De Punt in 1977, finally decided to break their silence and speak out against the controversy around the hijacking. In an interview with the Telegraaf they say that they find the past years' criticism on the action "disgusting" and that the soldiers acted according to the rules in ending the hijacking. The Telegraaf will publish the full interview on Saturday.

Relatives of two killed hijackers sued the Dutch state for compensation. According to the, hijackers Max Papilaja and Hansina Uktolseja were executed by marines while they were severely wounded and defenseless. 

According to the commanders, these allegations are unjustified. All marines involved acted properly and in accordance with agreements made with all the relevant authorities. They refer to the rules of engagement - appropriate use of force, arrest if possible, but if not, disable if there is no sign of visible surrender. "We did just that. Beforehand it was discussed and discussed", the operational commander of the marines said to the newspaper. "We always said that there may be casualties."

According to the commanders, the plan of attack said that the hijackers will not be killed deliberately if they flee or surrender, but the possibility of their death was accepted. Three hijackers were not killed during the rescue operation. "That alone proves that it was not our goal to kill the hijackers", the commander said to the newspaper. "I would have simply refused a mission to kill everyone", another said.

The whole affair started on May 23rd, 1977 when nine Moloccans hijacked a train between Assen and Groningen, with 94 passengers inside. The train was brought to a standstill near the village De Punt in Drenthe. 40 of the passengers were immediately released, the others only after being held hostage for 19 days. Marines were sent in to put an end to the hostage situation. Six hijackers and two hostages were killed. The two hostages were accidentally hit by marines when they stormed the trains. 

 Next week the court in The Hague will rule over a lawsuit the relatives of two hijackers filed against the Dutch state. Over the past years there were several reports that the soldiers were ordered to kill all the hijackers.