Hijacking of Garuda Indonesia Flight 206

Author: Eric Sof

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The hijacking of Garuda Indonesia Flight 206 DC-9 Woyla (PK-GNJ) was an incident occurred on March 28, 1981 when it was hijacked by five terorrists.

Garuda Flight 206

On March 28, 1981, Garuda Indonesian Airlines flight GA 206 DC-9 “Woyla” was en route from Palembang to Medan, a domestic flight between two Indonesian cities. The plane has flown from Jakarta in 0800, transit in Palembang, then destinated to Medan, arrival time estimated 1055.


In the air, two passengers took off from their seats. One went to the cockpit; one stood in the aisle. By 1010, Woyla is completely under the control of five hijackers, all in firearms. The hijacker in the cockpit ordered the pilot to fly the plane to Colombo, Sri Lanka, but the pilot said that the fuel wouldn’t be enough. Then the plane is flown to Penang, Malaysia. The terrorists are from the Jihad Commando group, Muslim radicals responsible for the raid of police stations, military bases, and various sabotages in Indonesia during 1977-1981.

In the midday, the Indonesian government has been on red alert. Indonesia also never dealt with serious hijacking before. The first case was in 1974; when a desperate marine hijacked a domestic flight for money, then he was killed by the pilot himself. In the evening, the newly created Indonesian Special Force, Kophasanda, has borrowed another DC-9 from Garuda Airlines and used it for combat training.

Plan for action

The plan itself wasn’t good. Woyla has left Malaysia after refueling, bound to Don Muang, Thailand. An old female passenger was allowed to go to Malaysia. The terrorists have declared their demand: The release of Jihad Commando’s that the Indonesian government has imprisoned, and the US $ 1.5 million. They also demand a plane is prepared for the released prisoners to an unnamed-yet destination. They have a bomb set on the plane.

Things get harder for the Kophasanda commander. He suspects that the plane will be flown to a state in the Middle East. But as the plane has been relocated from Malaysia, the step was going further for him. Also, US Ambassador has called him and told him that the US really counts on him for American citizens’ safety abroad the flight. On 2100, on 29th March, 35 members of Kophasanda left Indonesia in a DC-10, all wearing civilian clothes.

Thailand’s government itself didn’t agree much on the Indonesian choice to use military force. They preferred negotiation, the same way that ended the taking of the Israeli embassy in Bangkok by Black September terrorists back in 1972. Finally, they let the military way, considering that the aircraft owner is the Indonesian government, and all the terrorists are Indonesian nationals from a Muslim extremist group. Even, CIA’s chief in Thailand met Kopashanda to lend them flak jackets and breaching kits.

Green light

On 31st March, 0230, an American journalist on the top of a bus surrounding Don Muang woke his comrades, international journalists from Indonesia, the US, Thailand, Japan, Singapore, West Germany, France, and Australia. From the bushes, 500 meters from Woyla, armed soldiers are walking in silence. They brought three ladders. The plan was, the blue team and red team will climb the wings and wait at the side doors. The windows of the plane have been blinded. While the green team will breach the rear door, all will enter simultaneously at the go-code.

0243, the Thailand commando team moves, waiting on the runway to prevent the possibility of escaping terrorists. 0243, the go code has been given. The three teams enter, but not at the same time. The green team entered first, only to find that a terrorist is alert on the plane’s rear side. A bullet struck the belly of an anti-terrorist member, uncovered by a flak jacket. The hijacker killed himself then.

Then the blue team and the red team entered, shot two others terrorists on sight, as the passengers ducked and did nothing but close their eyes in the middle of the crossfire. The commando team shouted to the passengers, telling them to rush out. A hijacker, with a grenade in hand, also ran outside, tried to throw it. But other passengers pinpointed him, and the commando team finished him before the front door. The last terrorist was killed outside the plane.

0245, Then paramedic rushed to the plane to rescue the pilot. A terrorist shot him during the raid.

However, US reporters are not really unhappy in the next minute. The CT drama couldn’t become headlines, as one more great-scale thing for the US just happened: President Ronald Reagan was shot.


All terrorist is killed, while the “green side” victims are the pilot of Woyla and an anti-terrorist member. Asian Wall Street Journal and Asian and European papers praised the good work by the Indonesian Special Force. Indonesian intelligence itself later declared that the main goal of the terrorists’ organization was to throw the government and create an Islamic state in Indonesia.

It is suspected that they have asked for support to the Islamic Republic of Iran, as the leader of the hijacker (the one that killed the CT member then shot himself) has written a letter to Ayatollah Khomeini, behalf of the Indonesian Islamic Revolutionary Council, asking for aid from Iran.

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