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French GIGN Gained Fame for Daring Raid on Hijacked Air France Flight

  • On December 24, 1994, Air France Flight 8969 was set for a routine flight from Algiers to Paris.
  • As an alternative, the passengers and crew spent three days because the hostages of Islamist extremists.
  • They have been freed in a raid that was caught on stay TV and launched France’s elite GIGN to the world.

The greater than 230 passengers and crew aboard Air France Flight 8969 on December 24, 1994, have been wanting ahead to a fast and uneventful flight from Algiers to Paris.

Earlier than they took off, 4 males dressed as Algerian policemen boarded the aircraft for what seemed to be a routine examine.

Three days later, on the tarmac in Marseille, the passengers have been freed by a daring raid that was broadcast on stay TV, displaying to the world the distinctive abilities of France’s elite GIGN.

Air France 8969

Hijacked Air France Airbus A300

Two males in pink fits place meals trays on a gangway hooked up to hijacked Air France Flight 8969 in Marseille, December 26, 1994.

GEORGES GOBET/AFP through Getty Picture


In 1989, Algeria wasn’t the most secure place for foreigners, particularly the French. France had colonized Algeria within the early nineteenth century and a whole lot of 1000’s of French settled there over the next a long time.

In 1962, Algerians gained independence from France after a brutal eight-year battle. Inside battle elevated afterward, and by 1989 Algeria was on the verge of struggle between the federal government and Islamist insurgent teams.

Relations with France, nonetheless, appeared regular, and the passengers and crew of Air France 8969 weren’t anticipating the 4 “police officers” to be terrorists set on hijacking the aircraft and killing everybody on board.

The 4 males have been members of the Armed Islamic Group, a hardline anti-Algerian authorities group that wished to ascertain an Islamic state in Algeria. They have been armed with AK-47s, Uzi submachine weapons, sidearms, grenades, and even sticks of dynamite.

They demanded the discharge of a few of their comrades in Algerian prisons and to point out their dedication they killed an Algerian police officer who occurred to be a passenger on the flight.

As soon as French officers confirmed the hijacking, the Nationwide Gendarmerie Intervention Group was placed on standby for a right away hostage-rescue try ought to the negotiations fail.

French GIGN personnel enter hijacked Airbus A300

French GIGN personnel attempt to enter the Air France flight held by Islamist extremists, December 26, 1994.

GEORGES GOBET/AFP through Getty Photographs


GIGN, because the group is thought, is the French police’s elite counterterrorism unit, much like the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Group. It makes a speciality of counterterrorism and hostage-rescue and has develop into well-known for its responses to lethal terrorist assaults in France.

The Algerian authorities barred France from sending the GIGN to its territory, however the French commandos continued their planning and preparations, even utilizing an Airbus A300 to get aware of the structure of the hijacked aircraft.

The terrorists initially indicated that they’d launch the passengers and crew if their calls for have been met. However an agent contained in the GIA reported to the Algerian authorities, and by extension to the French, that the hijackers’ true purpose was a suicide assault on France.

On December 25, the terrorists launched about 60 passengers, principally ladies and kids. However they then killed one other passenger and threatened to shoot one each half-hour until the plane was cleared for takeoff.

After a lot strain from the French authorities, the Algerians let the aircraft depart to Marseille to refuel earlier than heading to Paris. The GIGN operators have been ready.

The GIGN strikes

Air France Airbus Algiers hijacking hostage GIGN

Bullet holes within the home windows and fuselage of Air France Flight 8969 after GIGN brokers freed the aircraft from hijackers, December 26, 1994.

GEORGES GOBET/AFP/Getty Photographs


As soon as in Marseille, the terrorists demanded 3 times extra gasoline than needed to achieve Paris, indicating they’d a for much longer journey deliberate — or wished to show the aircraft right into a firebomb.

GIGN operators disguised as airport personnel boarded the plane to supply meals and clear the bogs, utilizing the chance to scout the aircraft and confirm that there have been no explosives on the doorways.

By the morning of December 26, the terrorists had grown agitated by French efforts to delay assembly their calls for. They ordered the aircraft to taxi subsequent to the management tower and commenced taking pictures on the negotiators there.

Three GIGN groups on staircars sped towards the aircraft. Assault workforce one would safe the cockpit whereas assault groups two and three took over the cabin.

Shut-quarters-combat operations “inside an aircraft are pretty challenging,” a retired Delta Power operator informed Insider. “On the one hand, you don’t have any serious corners to clear, which is what gets a lot of people during room clearing. But on the other hand, you’ve got potential hostages all over the place.”

In preparation for a information convention aboard the plane — a ruse by the French police — the terrorists had positioned a lot of the passengers at the back of the aircraft.

Throughout hostage conditions aboard planes, the hijackers will usually herd individuals to 1 a part of the plane so as to higher management them, however they could additionally unfold them out to make use of them as human shields, the retired operator mentioned.

The latter state of affairs is the place good close-quarters-combat abilities, goal discretion, and set off self-discipline “really shine,” the retired operator added.

Relying on operational wants, special-operations groups can discover a lot of methods into an plane — Delta Power has developed specialised tools and strategies to go in via the roof, the previous operator mentioned. The GIGN operators pressured their approach in via the cabin door after their staircars reached the aircraft.

Their dramatic sprint into the plane was captured on stay TV. As soon as inside, a fierce firefight with the terrorists broke out across the cockpit. After 22 minutes of preventing, throughout which grenades and different explosives have been detonated and 400 rounds have been fired, the standoff was over.

All 4 terrorists have been killed. 9 GIGN commandos have been wounded. Three passengers had been killed previous to the raid, however none have been killed through the gun battle, although 13 of them and three crew members have been wounded. One of many pilots managed to open the cockpit window and soar to the tarmac, fracturing his leg upon touchdown.

The GIGN had made its title. “An aircraft-hijacking situation is where you tell the difference between a Tier 1 and any other SOF [special-operations forces] unit,” the retired Delta Power operator mentioned.

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a protection journalist specializing in particular operations, a Hellenic Military veteran (nationwide service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Military HQ), and a Johns Hopkins College graduate.



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