THE SIGONELLA CRISIS, WHEN CRAXI DEFIED THE US
Behind the major historical events of the Mediterranean world
An episode from the series BORDERS
The Sigonella crisis was a complex diplomatic case that almost triggered an armed conflict between the Italian army and US special forces in 1985.
On October 7, 1985, the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro was hijacked off the coast of Port Said, Egypt, by a Palestinian terrorist commando. The events took a tragic turn when one of the hostages, a paraplegic American citizen, was murdered. Despite the American disagreement, the Italian ambassador in Egypt negotiated the release of the hundred or so hostages in exchange for allowing the terrorists to board a Boeing to Tunisia.
In the end, the terrorists were tried in Italy, except for the mastermind of the operation, Abu Abbas. In great secrecy, Craxi, the Italian prime minister, allowed him to take refuge in Belgrade and thus escape American prosecution.