Laju incident

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The Laju Incident, also known as the Laju Ferry Hijacking, occurred on 31 January 1974 in Singapore. Four armed men from the terrorist groups Japanese Red Army and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine attacked the Shell oil refinery complex on Pulau Bukom and later hijacked the ferryboat Laju and took its five crew members hostage. The crisis was resolved after the Singapore government provided the terrorists safe passage to the Middle East in exchange for the release of the hostages.

Background[edit]

The group behind the attack originally planned to attack an Esso oil refinery in Norway at Slagentangen outside Tønsberg, but changed their plans after Norwegian authorities in 1973 raised a public terror alarm, causing the group to retract.[1][2]

Attacks on Pulau Bukom[edit]

On 31 January 1974, four men armed with submachine guns and explosives attacked the Shell oil refinery complex on Pulau Bukom, a small island lying south of Singapore. The terrorists were two members of the Japanese Red Army (JRA) and two members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Their goal was to disrupt the oil supply from Singapore to other countries, especially South Vietnam. On 1 February 1974, a PFLP spokesman made a statement in Beirut that the attack was a warning to all monopolistic oil companies on one hand and imperialism in general on the other – especially the perceived oppression of the Arabs in the Middle East.

At the beginning of their operation, the terrorists' boat ran aground on a coral reef. They managed to reach the shore of Pulau Bukom after convincing an unsuspecting boatman to tow them towards the island. As they headed towards a gate of an oil tank installation, they fired shots at two passing vehicles although no one was injured. A sentry at a security post managed to escape and raise the alarm. The terrorists were able to detonate three of the 12 explosives they were carrying, but they caused little damage.

Hijacking of the Laju[edit]

In their attempt to escape, the terrorists then hijacked the ferryboat Laju at the jetty and took its five crew members hostage. This led to a chase and Laju was quickly surrounded by navy gunboats and marine police boats at the Eastern Anchorage.

This was followed by 7 days of intense negotiations, during which two hostages managed to escape by jumping overboard in the middle of the night. The terrorists later agreed to release the other crew members in exchange for a party of "guarantors" for their safe passage to the Middle East. This 13-men party consisted of four commandos from the Singapore Armed Forces and eight other government officials. The party was led by S. R. Nathan, the Director of the Security and Intelligence Division at the Ministry of Defence.[3]

Crisis resolution and consequences[edit]

On the night of 7 February, the group was transferred from Laju to the Marine Police Headquarters and then to Paya Lebar Airport, where the terrorists surrendered their weapons. After they freed the remaining three hostages, the four terrorists left Singapore on 8 February at 0125 hours, accompanied by S. R. Nathan's team on a specially arranged Japan Airlines flight to Kuwait. After reaching Kuwait, the 13-men party flew back and reached Singapore on the following day.[4] The hijackers were later accepted and flown to South Yemen.[5]

All members of the negotiating team received honours on National Day, 9 August 1974.[6] S. R. Nathan later became the sixth President of Singapore and served for two terms from 1999 to 2011.

The incident was Singapore's first encounter with international terrorism.[7]

References[edit]

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