The World: Terror and Triumph at Mogadishu

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Schmidt also sent his chief troubleshooter, State Secretary Hans-Jürgen Wischnewski, 55, to the Middle East. Aboard Wischnewski's 707—code-named Oscar X Ray—were 31 additional troops of G.S.G. 9 as well as the unit's commander, Ulrich Wegener. At dawn Saturday, Wischnewski reached Dubai and went to the control tower to talk with the hijackers by radio; he had no success.

Among the European leaders who called Schmidt to offer their support as well as their sympathy was British Prime Minister James Callaghan; Schmidt gladly accepted the offer. Accordingly, the British provided the West Germans with 1) special, highly sensitive listening devices for locating the terrorists within the plane and 2) a supply of British "stun grenades," which explode without scattering metal fragments, but can immobilize an enemy for about six seconds with their sound and flash. The stun grenades—along with two experts from Britain's crack Special Air Service regiment—were soon en route to Dubai.

On Saturday, Frankfurt instructed Flight 1231, still waiting in Ankara: "Fly back to Cologne. This is an order from the Interior Minister." The commandos returned to West Germany and left again a day later on another 707, code-named Uniform Bravo. This time they flew to Crete to await further orders.

In Dubai, Wischnewski persuaded Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Mak-tum, Defense Minister of the United Arab Emirates, to permit a rescue operation on his territory. After considerable argument, Wischnewski agreed reluctantly to the sheik's insistence that his own troops be allowed to participate. Disguised as mechanics, the commandos scouted the aircraft and helped put aboard food, water, medicine, and even a birthday cake for one of the stewardesses, Annemarie Staringer, 28. Hijackers and hostages shared the cake in what passengers later said was the only moment of cordiality during the five-day ordeal.

On Sunday morning, only 40 minutes before the first of the terrorists' several deadlines for exploding the plane, Charlie Echo took off unexpectedly. It headed first for the island of Masirah, 20 miles off the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, but the Sultanate of Oman refused to allow it to land. For at least two hours after that, nobody in the area was sure of the plane's whereabouts. "Do you know where it is?" Aden asked Saudi Arabia, which replied: "We lost him." In fact, Charlie Echo had headed for Aden, capital of the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (Southern Yemen), with a ten-minute supply of fuel left. This time the skyjackers refused to take no for an answer when they asked to land. "We are coming in," shouted Mahmud at the Aden tower. "I repeat, we are coming in."

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