Leon Klinghoffer
Leon Klinghoffer was a disabled American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 appliance manufacturer who was murdered and thrown overboard by Palestinian terrorists in the hijacking of the cruise ship
Cruise ship
A cruise ship or cruise liner is a passenger ship used for pleasure voyages, where the voyage itself and the ship's amenities are part of the experience, as well as the different destinations along the way...

 Achille Lauro
MS Achille Lauro
MS Achille Lauro was a cruise ship based in Naples, Italy. Built between 1939 and 1947 as MS Willem Ruys, a passenger liner for the Rotterdamsche Lloyd. It is most remembered for its 1985 hijacking...

in 1985.

Hijacking and murder

Leon Klinghoffer, 69, a retired businessman who was in a wheelchair
A wheelchair is a chair with wheels, designed to be a replacement for walking. The device comes in variations where it is propelled by motors or by the seated occupant turning the rear wheels by hand. Often there are handles behind the seat for someone else to do the pushing...

, and his wife Marilyn (née Windwehr), were celebrating their 36th wedding anniversary with a cruise on the Achille Lauro. On October 7, 1985, four hijackers from the Palestine Liberation Front
Palestine Liberation Front
The Palestine Liberation Front is a Palestinian militant group, which is designated as a terrorist organization by Canada, the European Union and the USA. It is presently led by Dr. Wasel Abu Yousef.-Origins:...

 (PLF) took control of the liner off Egypt as it was sailing from Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

 to Port Said
Port Said
Port Said is a city that lies in north east Egypt extending about 30 km along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, north of the Suez Canal, with an approximate population of 603,787...

, Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

. Holding the passengers and crew hostage, they ordered the captain to sail to Tartus, Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, and demanded the release of 50 Palestinians then in Israeli prisons, including the Lebanese prisoner Samir Kuntar
Samir Kuntar
Samir Kuntar is a Lebanese Druze convicted murderer and former member of the Palestine Liberation Front...


The next day, after being refused permission by the Syrian government to dock at Tartus, the hijackers singled out Klinghoffer, a Jew, for murder, shooting him in the forehead and chest as he sat in his wheelchair. They then forced the ship's barber and a waiter to throw his body and wheelchair overboard. Marilyn Klinghoffer, who did not witness the shooting, was told by the hijackers that he had been moved to the infirmary. She only learned the truth after the hijackers left the ship at Port Said. PLO Foreign Secretary Farouq Qaddumi said that perhaps the terminally ill Marilyn Klinghoffer had killed her husband for insurance money; however, the PLO later accepted responsibility, apologized, and reached a financial settlement with the Klinghoffer family.

Initially, the hijackers were granted safe passage to Tunisia
Tunisia , officially the Tunisian RepublicThe long name of Tunisia in other languages used in the country is: , is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area...

, but U.S. President Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

 ordered a U.S. fighter plane to force the get-away plane to land at Naval Air Station Sigonella
Naval Air Station Sigonella
Naval Air Station Sigonella , "The Hub of the Med", is a U.S. Navy installation at NATO Base Sigonella and an Italian Air Force base in Sicily, Italy. Although a tenant of the Italian Air Force, NAS Sigonella acts as landlord to more than 40 other U.S. commands and activities. It is located west...

 in Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

. After an extradition dispute Italian authorities arrested and later tried the Palestinian terrorists but let Abu Abbas
Abu Abbas
Muhammad Zaidan also known as Abū ‘Abbās or Muhammad ‘Abbās, was the founder and leader of paramilitary group the Palestine Liberation Front .- Political background :...

, the Palestinian who had served as a mediator, fly to Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia refers to three political entities that existed successively on the western part of the Balkans during most of the 20th century....


Klinghoffer's body was found by the Syrians on October 14–15 and returned to the United States around October 20. Leon Klinghoffer was buried at Beth David Memorial Park in Kenilworth, New Jersey
Kenilworth, New Jersey
Kenilworth is a Borough in Union County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough population was 7,914.Kenilworth was incorporated as a borough by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature on May 13, 1907, from portions of Cranford and Union Township, based on the...

. Four months after her husband's murder, Marilyn Klinghoffer (October 5, 1926 – February 9, 1986) died of colon cancer, aged 59. The Klinghoffers are survived by two daughters, Ilsa and Lisa Klinghoffer.


After his death, their daughters established the Leon and Marilyn Klinghoffer Memorial Foundation with the Anti-Defamation League
Anti-Defamation League
The Anti-Defamation League is an international non-governmental organization based in the United States. Describing itself as "the nation's premier civil rights/human relations agency", the ADL states that it "fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects...

. The foundation combats terrorism through educational, political and legal means. The foundation is funded by an undisclosed settlement paid by the PLO to the Klinghoffers to settle a lawsuit seeking damages for the PLO's role in the hijacking (Klinghoffer v. PLO, 739 F. Supp. 854 (S.D.N.Y. 1990) and Klinghoffer v. PLO, 937 F.2d 44, 50 (2d Cir. 1991)). This lawsuit spurred passage of the Antiterrorism Act of 1990 which made it easier for victims of terrorism to sue terrorists and collect civil damages for losses incurred.

The hijacking was made into a television movie
Television movie
A television film is a feature film that is a television program produced for and originally distributed by a television network, in contrast to...

 in 1990, Voyage of Terror: The Achille Lauro Affair starring Burt Lancaster
Burt Lancaster
Burton Stephen "Burt" Lancaster was an American film actor noted for his athletic physique and distinctive smile...

 and Eva Marie Saint
Eva Marie Saint
Eva Marie Saint is an American actress who has starred in films, on Broadway, and on television in a career spanning seven decades. She won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the drama film On the Waterfront , and later starred in the thriller film North by...


American composer John Adams
John Coolidge Adams
John Coolidge Adams is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer with strong roots in minimalism. His best-known works include Short Ride in a Fast Machine , On the Transmigration of Souls , a choral piece commemorating the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks , and Shaker...

' second opera, The Death of Klinghoffer
The Death of Klinghoffer
The Death of Klinghoffer is an American opera, with music by John Adams to an English-language libretto by Alice Goodman. First produced in Brussels and New York in 1991, the opera is based on the hijacking of the passenger liner Achille Lauro by the Palestine Liberation Front in 1985, and the...

, based on the events of 1985 opened to great controversy in 1991. The concept for the opera was suggested by director Peter Sellars
Peter Sellars
Peter Sellars is an American theatre director, noted for his unique contemporary stagings of classical and contemporary operas and plays...

 and it featured a libretto by Alice Goodman
Alice Goodman
Alice Goodman , American poet, was educated at Harvard University and Cambridge where she studied English and American literature. She received her Master of Divinity degree from the Boston University School of Theology. She has written the libretti for two of the operas of John Adams, Nixon in...

. The Los Angeles Opera
Los Angeles Opera
The Los Angeles Opera is an opera company in Los Angeles, California. It is the fourth largest opera company in the United States. The company's home base is the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, part of the Los Angeles Music Center.-Current leadership:...

 shared in the work's commission but never presented it, after the work was attacked by those who objected to its alleged excessive "understanding" of terrorists. A Prix Italia
Prix Italia
The Prix Italia is an international Italian television, radio-broadcasting and Website award. It was established in 1948 by RAI - Radiotelevisione Italiana in Capri...

-winning television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

 version of the opera, starring Sanford Sylvan and Christopher Maltman, and directed by Penny Woolcock, was screened by United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

's Channel 4
Channel 4
Channel 4 is a British public-service television broadcaster which began working on 2 November 1982. Although largely commercially self-funded, it is ultimately publicly owned; originally a subsidiary of the Independent Broadcasting Authority , the station is now owned and operated by the Channel...

 in 2003.

PLF leader Muhammad Zaidan a.k.a. Abu Abbas was freed by the Italian government in the aftermath of the Achille Lauro affair, but was continually sought by the United States government, who captured and held him after the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Red Hot Chili Peppers
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Red Hot Chili Peppers is an American rock band, formed in Los Angeles in 1983. The group's musical style primarily consists of rock with an emphasis on funk, as well as elements from other genres such as punk, hip hop and psychedelic rock...

 guitarist, Josh Klinghoffer
Josh Klinghoffer
Joshua Adam "Josh" Klinghoffer is an American multi-instrumentalist, who is best known as the current guitarist for the rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers. Klinghoffer replaced his friend and frequent collaborator John Frusciante, who left the band in 2009.Klinghoffer also fronts Dot Hacker, and was...

is a distant relative. Josh's grandfather was a fourth or fifth cousin to Leon Klinghoffer.

External links

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