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Flashback to First Aircraft Hijacking in Greece

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The first hijacking in Greece occurred during the civil war. Public Domain

The first aircraft hijacking in Greece took place during the Civil War on September 12th, 1948 when six pro-communist students who wanted passage to Yugoslavia, hijacked a plane that was traveling from Athens to Thessaloniki.

Alexandros Koufoudakis, 21, Dimitrios Koufoudakis, 23, Achilleas Ketimlidis, 19, Antonis Voyazos, 18, Giorgos Kelas, 17, and Spiros Helmiadis, 18, were on the run and accused by the police of sabotage.

They boarded a civilian TAE midday flight from Athens to Thessaloniki to make their escape.

Hijacking as aircraft was flying over Evia, Greece

A few minutes after take off and while the plane was flying over northern Evia, four of the six young men entered the flight deck, held the pilot Athanassios Igoumenakis at knife-point, and ordered him to fly towards Yugoslavia.

Pilot A. Igoumenakis (center) in front of the hijacked plane after the ordeal.

The co-pilot and the radio operator were injured by the hijackers. The plane landed near Skopje in today’s North Macedonia. The six hijackers disembarked and fled.

They were eventually tried in absentia by the Extraordinary Military Tribunal of Thessaloniki and sentenced to death.

Two of them, Spiros Helmiades and Achilleas Ketimlidis, illegally returned to Greece and were killed in the battles of the Civil War.

The remaining four lived in Eastern European countries for many years.

The civil war in Greece

The Greek Civil War took place between 1943 to 1949. It was mainly fought against the established Kingdom of Greece, which was supported by the United Kingdom and the United States and won in the end.

The losing opposition was governed by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and its military branch, the Democratic Army of Greece (DSE), as well as the People’s Republic of the Provisional Democratic Government. The rebels were supported by Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union.

The war began as a conflict between the communist-dominated left-wing resistance organization, the EAM-ELAS, and loosely-allied anti-communist resistance forces. It later escalated into a major civil war between the state and the communists. The fighting resulted in the defeat of the DSE by the Hellenic Army.

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