Hostage Situations That Caught The World’s Attention

The movie Taken with Liam Neeson had us all repeating the line, “I have a very particular set of skills…Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you.” Many of us wish we could be the Bryan Mills of the world, especially when hearing of hostage situations on the news.

In real-life, hostages remind us of our own vulnerabilities. From terrorist groups who used hostages as leverage to a famous case of Stockholm syndrome that led to a Presidential pardon, these are some of the most famous, riveting, and scary hostage situations from around the world.

The One Who Didn’t Want To Get Away

19-year-old Patricia Hearst poses for the camera months before her abduction.
Tony Korody/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images
Tony Korody/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images

While attending UC Berkeley, 19-year-old Patricia Hearst Shaw was abducted right out of her apartment by the Symbionese Liberation Army. By kidnapping the granddaughter of self-made newspaper icon, William Randolph Hearst, members hoped to set free two other members who had been arrested for murder.

SLA was an inmate tutoring program gone horribly wrong. The group began to consider all black convicts as heroes, victimized by America. Patty eventually joined their cause and was caught robbing a bank with the group. Bill Clinton granted her a presidential pardon, blaming her actions on Stockholm Syndrome.

The Eagle’s Claw Swiped And Missed

One of the invaders holds out photographs of his hostages.
Alain MINGAM/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Alain MINGAM/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

On November 4, 1979, a group of Islamist students showed their support for an Iranian revolution by invading an American embassy. Fifty-two US diplomats were held hostage for 444 days, leading right up to the inauguration of Ronald Reagan. Over the course of a year the government had struggled to find a negotiation that would set the hostages free.

On April 24, 1980, “Operation Eagle Claw” ensued. Unfortunately, the operation was aborted due to only five of eight intended helicopters being operational. The hostages were finally set free with the signing of the Algiers Accord in 1981.

The Father Who Took Over A Maternity Ward

Patients rest in beds along a maternity ward hall.
Reg Innell/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Reg Innell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Richard Worthington marched into the Alta View Hospital in 1991 with the intent of killing Dr. Glade. The religious father of nine was furious that his wife had successfully received a tubal ligation by Dr. Glade, insisting that she had not consented, despite the surgery having occurred two years prior.

Worthington had a history of making threats and of being suicidal. He entered the Women’s Center and took over the maternity ward while he was strapped with dynamite. Worthington shot and killed a nurse with his shotgun before being coaxed into surrendering. The movie Deliver Them From Evil depicts this sad story.

This Returning Student Won’t Be Getting A Diploma

High schoolers hold up a sign to end gun violence in schools.
Xinhua/Zhao Hanrong via Getty Images
Xinhua/Zhao Hanrong via Getty Images

On May 1, 1992, crazed 20-year-old Eric Houston returned to Lindhurst High School, this time with a shotgun and a rifle. The first murder he committed was against Robert Brens, a civics teacher who had failed him his senior year. Three more were killed and ten were injured.

Houston forced a student to help rally 80 students into a room, where they all remained for eight hours until Houston finally surrendered. He later confessed that he was angered over losing his job and not receiving a GED. Almost thirty years later, he is still contained to death row.

These Bad Guys Took Over Good Guys

A Good Guys sales associate converses with a customer in the store.
Carlos Chavez/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Carlos Chavez/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The capital of California experienced crisis on April 4, 1991, when about forty people were taken hostage at Good Guys! in Sacramento. Four gunmen, three brothers and their friend, took over the store and kept their victims hostage for over eight hours in order to bargain with the sheriff with a barrage of demands.

Sergeant Bob Lyons stripped down to his underwear in order to deliver a bulletproof vest to the young men, and in doing so a snipper missed one of the perpetrators, shattering the glass and causing the men to run while opening fire. In the end, six people were dead, three out of four of the gunmen included.

Russia’s Most Devastating Day

Russians hold up a sign with photographs of victims of the 2004 massacre.
Peter KovalevTASS via Getty Images
Peter KovalevTASS via Getty Images

In the morning of September 1, 2004, twelve hundred children and adults were held hostage at a school in Beslan in southern Russia. The perpertrators were armed Chechen guerillas. On the first day, 12 children and one adult were able to escape. By the second day, 26 hostages were released, and another 20 were killed.

On the third and final day, a large explosion triggered the remaining hostages to flee while getting shot at. The gymnasium collapsed, killing others. By the end of the seige more than 300 victims had passed, more than half of them children.

Murderer Without A Cause

Officers exit the small schoolhouse once the ordeal has ended.
STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images
STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images

This small, one-room Amish schoolhouse was taken over by Charles Carl Roberts IV on October 2, 2006. The young man shot at eight out of the ten girls present, all of whom were ages 6 to 13. Five of the eight girls died that day.

Charles had arrived at about 10:30 in the morning. He held the hostages for roughly 40 minutes, while police arrived, before he began shooting. He committed suicide just before the troopers knocked down the wall to care for the wounded young girls.

This Veteran Lost The War With His Own Mind

The FBI walks towards the crime scene.
Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images
Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images

65-year-old Vietnam War veteran Jimmy Lee Dykes hijacked a Dale County school bus on January 29, 2013. When Dykes demanded to take two of the boys off the bus with him, bus driver Charles Albert Poland, Jr. stood up and blocked access to the aisle, challenging Dykes to shoot him.

He did, leaving Poland dead. Dykes then grabbed five-year-old Ethan Gilman and ran to his underground bunker. There they remained for five days until the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team blew off the bunker’s roof, shot and killed Dykes, and saved Gilman.

A War On Religion

Photographs of victims are showcased on the church's alter.
ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images
ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images

On Halloween 2010, six members of The Islamic State of Iraq, a Sunni militant group belonging to al-Qaeda, attacked the Our Lady Of Salvation church in Baghdad. The men wore suicide vests and killed two guards on their way in. As they entered, about 19 people were able to escape.

A priest led about 60 of the worshippers to a sacristy at the back of the church while another 100 were riled up and shot at in the dark. Three hours later, Iraqi security forces stormed the church. Of the hostages, 58 were killed. All six attackers were also killed.

An Environmentalist Gone Mental

The Discovery headquarters are located next to a street, a convenient location for protests.
Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post/Getty Images
Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post/Getty Images

James Jay Lee was already well known by Discovery employees, through his history of protesting the network, when he brought a gun into the building and held three people hostage. In weeks prior, Lee was believed to have distributed his manifesto which contained such taunts as, “stop encouraging the birth of any more parasitic human infants.”

Lee followed a website that was frustrated at the network’s attention to products rather than actual solutions to planetary problems. After a four hour standoff, he was shot and killed by police. Thankfully, none of the hostages were injured.

Everyone Lost At The 1972 Olympics

Visitors begin to arrive at the memorial of the crisis that ensued at the 1972 Olympics.
Sven Hoppe/picture alliance via Getty Images
Sven Hoppe/picture alliance via Getty Images

The 1972 Summer Olympics only survived two weeks before the Munich massacre began. A Palestinian terrorist group called Black September would go on to take eleven Israeli Olympic team members as hostages, hoping to free 234 prisoners held in Israel.

West German police officers tried to reach the terrorists through ventilation shafts but news broadcasts tipped off the terrorists and forced police to retreat. Assuaging the demands of the terrorists’ leader, authorities attempted and failed to trap the perpetrators in a helicopter that was meant to take them to Cairo. The plan backfired, but officials were still able to capture three of the gunmen and kill the other eight. Unfortunately, all of the hostages were killed.

The Chaos After The Storm

Soldiers carry a dead victim on a stretcher.
David Rubinger/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
David Rubinger/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Three members of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine held 115 people hostage, 105 of them children, at Netiv Meir Elementary School on May 15, 1974. The following day, the perpetrators demanded the release of 23 Palestinian militants from Israeli prisons by six p.m. that evening.

Half an hour before the deadline, the Sayeret Matkal special forces group stormed the building. The hostage-takers used grenades and automatic rifles to attack their hostages, killing 28 of them, 22 of whom were children. All three attackers were killed.

This Director Of Relief Services Struggled To Find Relief

Father Jenco looks up while standing in church, at mass, only 6 months after his release.
Susan Biddle/The Denver Post via Getty Images
Susan Biddle/The Denver Post via Getty Images

An Illinois native, Father Jenco was in Beirut, Lebanon serving as the director of Catholic Relief Services when he was taken hostage. Five Shiite Muslims held him captive for a year and a half, over the course of which Father Jenco spent most of his time in meditation and prayer.

His release was the result of negotiations between the Reagan Administration, Shiite radicals, and Terry Waite, an envoy for the Church of England. Jenco suffered from health problems as a result of his captivity, including a serious eye infection, but lived until July 19, 1996.

The Hostage Who Saw His Captors With Compassion

Terry Waite Smiles at the audience while hosting the 2016 Advertising Week Europe
Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images for Advertising Week Europe
Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images for Advertising Week Europe

Terry Waite had successfully negotiated the release of hostages held in Iran, beginning in 1980. In 1987, he flew into Beirut, Lebanon in order to negotiate with the Islamic Jihad Organization and to meet with ill hostages. He was told his visit would be safe.

From January 20, 1987, until November 17, 1991, he was held hostage, most of the time in solitary confinement. Despite this, Waite went on to be a bestseller and a lecturer at humanitarian conventions. He even performed another negotiation in 2007 and returned to Beirut in 2012 to lay to rest any animosity.

A Decade Of Hostages

Frenchman Jerome Leyraud is crowded by onlookers as he is freed by Lebanese security.
NABIL ISMAIL/AFP/Getty Images
NABIL ISMAIL/AFP/Getty Images

The Lebanon Hostage Crisis was a decade of kidnappings in the midst of the Lebanese Civil War. Hostages occupied 21 different national origins, most of which were American and Western European. Abductors belonged to the group Hezbollah, who are thought to have wanted to avoid retaliation for the killing of 241 Americans and 58 Frenchmen in Beirut.

The end of the crisis is thought to be a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union, combined with a need for aid from the West, Syria, and Iran. Additionally, in 1991 Shia prisoners in Europe were freed, as were Islamic Dawa Party members.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

A frame from network broadcasting shows the couple before three gunmen as they read a statement from the Abu Sayyaf.
AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

Gracia and Martin Burnham were US protestant missionaries who went to the Philippines in 1986 to serve with New Tribes Mission. They were abducted along with 18 other hostages from the Dos Palmas Resort on May 27, 2001 by members of the Jihadist militant group Abu Sayyaf.

Most of the group were killed or released, but by June 7, 2002, the couple was still being held hostage when the Philippine Army intervened. The invasion ended in Martin’s death by gun wounds in the chest. Gracia made it out alive with a wounded knee and now travels around the country to share the spiritual lessons she has learned.

Saved By His Home Government

Roy Hallums shakes hands with a US troop in front of the plane that will take him home.
CPIC via Getty Images
CPIC via Getty Images

Contractor Roy Hallums was abducted in Baghdad in 2004. He spent ten months blindfolded in captivity. On January 25, 2005, a videotape showed Hallums with a gun pointed at this head while he called on Libyan president Muammar al-Gaddafi to aid him in his release, though Hallums was American.

On September 7, 2005, the US Army’s Delta Force raided the location where hostages had been held, a farmhouse 15 miles south of Baghdad that was found through an Iraqi detainee. Despite his awful captivity, Roy Hallums was revealed to be in good health.

This Police Error Made International News

Eloá Pimentel leans out of a window, shouting presummably at police officers.
Rivaldo Gomes/Folhapress via Metro
Rivaldo Gomes/Folhapress via Metro

Fifteen-year-old Eloá Pimentel was working on a school project with three other friends when her ex-boyfriend, Lidemberg Fernandes Alves, stormed in with a pistol. Alves released the two males who had been present and eventually released Eloá’s friend, Nayara de Silva, as well.

Officers made the mistake of suggesting that Nayara return as a hostage. She did, and afterward, shots were fired at both girls. Only Eloá Pimentel died. She had been held for 100 hours, the longest hostage crisis in São Paulo history.

This Former Police Officer Was On The Wrong Side Of The Law

A Philippine chief inspector removes his hat while looking on to the ceremony held for victims of the bus hijacking.
TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images
TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images

On August 23, 2010, Philippine National Police Officer Rolando Mendoza hijacked a tourist bus. The officer believed that he had been unfairly dismissed from the force, and decided to take his power back by holding 20 tourists from Hong Kong, a tour guide, and four locals captive on the bus.

While on the bus, Mendoza saw his brother on television being arrested by police live on the news. He opened fire, initiating a shootout that resulted in his death alongside eight of the hostages. The crisis began that morning and did not end until nearly eight o’clock at night.

The Flight To Confinement

Passengers are escorted off of flight 571 once the landed plane has become secured.
David Rubinger/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
David Rubinger/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

On May 8, 1972, Palestinian terrorist group Black September hijacked flight 571 from Brussels to Lod. The hijackers forced the flight’s Jewish hostages to the back of the plane, while the pilot followed instructions from the terrorists to land at Lod Airport.

Once landed, the four hijackers demanded the release of 315 prisoners in Israel, threatening to otherwise blow up the plane. The following day at 4:00 p.m. 16 Sayeret Matkal commandos disguised as technicians stormed the plain. One passenger was shot, and two of the hijackers were killed. The other two went to prison until they were released in 1983 as a part of a prisoner exchange.