Beirut International Airport was eerily quiet in the early morning hours when men from the Shiite Moslem militia Amal's special security unit arrived about 20 minutes before TWA Flight 847 landed for the second time in 13 hours.
Among the militiamen were a number of the hijackers who had commandeered and blown up a Royal Jordanian Airways flight Tuesday. This morning, in the predawn darkness and with the wreckage of the Jordanian plane only a few hundred yards away, they appeared again in full gear, with machine guns, knives and pistols stuck in their belts.
When the plane approached, there was reluctance among people in the control tower to allow it to land, but the pilot pleaded that he only had fuel for a few minutes. Militiamen consulted in groups of three and four in hushed tones, as if figuring out what to do.
As the TWA aircraft with its distinctive red and white tail winged into the Beirut airport from the west at 2:22 a.m., reporters ran out onto a balcony in the main building.
Security men from the internal security force and the Lebanese Army's 6th Brigade stood by listlessly. But it was the militiamen who seemed in total control, running through its main hall and terminal building to the ground floor.
Reporters switched on radios to catch the labored efforts of Maj. Mustafa Ibrahim, an airport security official, to calm down one of the hijackers who were demanding to see an envoy from Amal immediately.
Another security official, Capt. Mohammed Hamiyeh, also was involved in the negotiations conducted from the airport control tower. When he told the hijacker he was part of the state security system, the hijacker responded: "There would not be a problem if I recognized this state."
Then the conversation took a dramatic turn. Getting angry and raising his voice, the hijacker said: "Here, listen to the sound of bullets."
The voice of the American pilot came on: "They just shot a passenger."
The hijacker came on again: "You heard and saw."
When the pilot begged the hijacker to give the negotiators time to figure out what he wanted, he screamed: "I'm not joking with you. I give you five more minutes, and then the Amal envoy must be here."
The plane was then asked to taxi a few yards toward the terminal building. The airport remained dark except for a string of white and blue lights in the distance.
As the plane approached,small groups of gunmen could be seen running with their heads down toward the side of the aircraft.
First there were eight, then they increased to about 20. They ran slowly and appeared tiny from a distance. They were all armed.
A yellow jeep with a sign in the back that said "follow me" approached the aircraft. The gunmen on the tarmac appeared nervous. Some ran ahead of the plane.
The hijackers asked for food for 150 persons, water and 40 kilograms of bananas, and then asked for an ambulance to take away the man who was shot and identified by them as a U.S. marine. Two jeeps and an ambulance finally located the body of the man who had been thrown out on the tarmac. A cameraman who saw him finally being carried on a stretcher said it looked like he had a crewcut.