Garuda Indonesia Flight 206
A Garuda Indonesia McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32, similar to the aircraft involved in the incident
|Date||28 March 1981|
|Fatalities||8 (5 hijackers, 1 commando, and the pilot)|
|Aircraft type||McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32|
|Flight origin||Talang Betutu Airport, Palembang Indonesia|
|Destination||Polonia Airport, Medan Indonesia|
Garuda Indonesia Flight 206 was a McDonnell Douglas DC-9 owned by the state-owned carrier, Garuda Indonesia, registered PK-GNJ. The plane was hijacked on a domestic flight from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, Jakarta to Polonia International Airport, Medan on 28 March 1981 by the member of Islamic extremist group called Jihad Command, whose demands included the release of their comrades from Indonesian jails. Three days later, the aircraft was stormed by Indonesian special forces, who killed freed most of the passengers, and killed three hijackers, the pilot and one of their colleagues.
The plane was scheduled to take-off from Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin 2 in Palembang, South Sumatra on Saturday morning of 28 March 1981 by Captain Herman Rante. The plane took-off at Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta airport at 08:00 in the morning and was scheduled to arrive at Polonia airport in Medan, North Sumatra at 10:55 am. After the take-off, 5 men with revolvers stood up from their seats and pointed their guns at the pilot while the others were near the aisle guarding the passengers. They demanded the pilot go to Colombo in Sri Lanka. The plane didn't have enough fuel to go to Colombo, so they refueled at Penang airport in Malaysia. When they were refuelling, the hijackers dropped off an old lady named Hulda Panjaitan because she kept crying in the plane. Subsequently, the plane took-off and landed at Don Muang Airport in Bangkok, Thailand.
Once there, the hijackers read out their demands. Their demands were: the releasing of 80 of their members that was arrested in the Cicendo incident, 1.5 million USD, Adam Malik be suspended from the post of Vice-President, and every Israeli be kicked out from Indonesia. The hijackers told the police to deliver their demands to the government, and threatened that otherwise they would blow up the plane with all the passengers and crew on board. They also wanted the release of one of their comrades at a secret location. The plane was at Don Muang for 4 days. For the first time ever, Indonesia was attacked with jihadist motives.
Herman, the airplane's captain, secretly asked for help to his fellow pilot, A. Sapari, who was flying Fokker F-28 at that time from Pekanbaru to Jakarta. Worried about his friend, Sapari contacted the Headquarters, and the news reached the military officers and the President, who were very shocked as the information was delivered while they were inspecting military exercises in Halmahera and Timor Timur. The Deputy Army General, Admiral Sudomo, immedeately cancelled the exercise and called the army's elite team, Kopassandha, to rescue the hostages. They borrowed the airline's DC-9 that was similar to the hijacked plane and studied it for three days. With brand new weapons, the team set off from Jakarta using Garuda Indonesia's DC-10. For safety reasons, the plane was parked far away from the hijacked plane. On Monday, 31 March 1981, the team was ready. However, the Thai government didn't give permission to take over the aircraft which was on Thailand's territory. In desperation, the Strategic Intelligence Chief Benny Moernadi, contacted his friend at the CIA station in Bangkok. The permit was given and the team took at action 06:00 am in the morning.
Benny asked for 17 coffins from the ground staff at the airport. The team leader, Sintong, asked his subordinates to sleep so that they might not get too tense. In the morning of 31 March on Tuesday, the team was ready for the hostage-rescue operation. They divided themselves into 3 groups - Red team, Blue team, and Green team. The first two teams, Red and Blue, were to be at the rear plane door while the Green team was to enter from the back door of the plane. Surprisingly, Benny showed up in the team uniform with a submachine gun. Sintong asked one of his subordinates to keep Benny out, but not to kick out boss. The RTAF SFR team were placed at the tarmac in case there was a hijacker trying to escape. When the team came in, the hijackers were surprised and fired at the team, but three of the hijackers were killed when the team returned fire. One of the Kopassus commandos was shot, probably by his comrades, as was the pilot, also probably by Kopassus commandos. The rest of the hostages were released unharmed. Two of the hijackers surrendered to the Thai commandos, but they were killed by the Kopassus commandos on the plane taking them back to Jakarta.
The wounded team member, Achmad Kirang, died on 1 April 1981 at Bhumibhol hospital in Bangkok, as did Hedhy, the co-pilot of the plane. Their remains were transported to Jakarta from Bangkok. They were later interred in Kalibata Heroes Cemetery in Jakarta.
The entire team including leader Lieutenant Colonel Sintong Panjaitan was awarded the Bintang Sakti by the Indonesian Government and promoted except Achmad Kirang was double promoted posthumously.
The terrorists involved in the hijacking were:
1. Imran bin Muhammad Zein
3. Wendy M. Zein
The rest of the crew members and all passengers survived. The leader of the hijackers, Imran bin Muhammad Zein, was tried after his arrival in Jakarta and was sentenced to death by the Central Jakarta Regional Court a few weeks later.
- Conboy 1982, pp.277-288
- Conboy 1982, pp.277-288
- "Aircraft accident McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32 PK-GNJ Bangkok-Don Muang International Airport." Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 6 July 2009.
- Hutabarat, Arifin (1989). To Our Beloved Country: The History of Garuda Indonesia. Ganesia P.R. p. 54. OCLC 21396891.
- Conboy, Ken (2004). Kopassus: Inside Indonesia's Special Forces. Equinox Publishing. pp. 277–278. ISBN 979-95898-8-6.
- Sebastian, Leonard C. (2006). Realpolitik ideology: Indonesia's use of military force. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. p. 168. ISBN 981-230-310-3.