On May 23, 1977, a train hijacking took place close to Drentsche Aa river bridge at de Punt (in the village of Glimmen) on the provincial border between Groningen and Drenthe, northeastern Netherlands. Nine armed Moluccans pulled the emergency brake around 9 AM and took about 50 people hostage. The hijacking lasted for 482 hours (20 days); two hostages and six hijackers were killed.
At the same time four other South-Moluccans took hostages at an elementary school in the village of Bovensmilde, also in Drenthe.
This was the second train hijacking in the Netherlands and, like the train hijacking in 1975 in Wijster, was perpetrated by Moluccans.
After fighting for the Dutch in the Dutch East Indies, the South Moluccans were forcibly exiled to the Netherlands, with the Dutch government promising that they would eventually get their own independent state, Republic of South Maluku. After about 25 years of living in temporary camps, often in poor conditions, the South Moluccans felt that the Dutch government had failed to fulfil its promise. It was then that some members of the South Moluccans' younger generation started a series of radical action to bring attention to their cause.
See Republik Maluku Selatan for more information about the RMS case.
At the same time 4 other South-Moluccans started taking hostages at a primary school in the village of Bovensmilde; they took 105 children and 5 teachers hostage. With these combined actions the hijackers wanted to force the (recently resigned) Dutch government to keep their promises about their RMS, break diplomatic ties with the Indonesian government and release 21 Moluccan prisoners involved in the hostage actions in 1975. An ultimatum was set for May 25 at 14:00 (2pm) with the hijackers threatening to blow up the train and the school. The hostages were forced to help blinding all the windows so for a long period nobody knew about what happened inside the train; it was only near the end of the hostage taking that electronic eavesdropping devices were installed by marines. About 2000 marines and soldiers were stationed both at the train and the school.
For the date of May 25, the elections for the Dutch parliament were planned. The leaders of the different parties agreed to cancel their election campaigns but the elections itself would take place on the planned date.
After the ultimatum expired, the hijackers announced new demands; They wanted an airplane from the airport of Schiphol and to fly out with the 21 to be freed prisoners, the 5 teachers, and all hijackers. By means of electronic eavesdropping, minister of Justice Van Agt (under resignation) knew that the hostages were not in danger, so the government let this second ultimatum pass as well.May 23 9:00AM: Start of the hijack
May 24 : The national broadcast NOS reads the letter with demands
May 25 : Elections for national parliament, ultimatum expires without anything happening
May 26 : A handcuffed hostage is taken outside the train and then taken aboard again
May 28 : Hostages clean up the train, 60 activists offer themselves as alternative hostages
May 29 : Negotiations about releasing a pregnant woman are cut off
May 30 : Second week of crisis
May 31 : For the first time the hijackers ask for a negotiator
June 1 : The hijackers ask for an ambulance but later retract the request
June 4 : 2 negotiators talk for hours with the hijackers
June 5 : 2 pregnant women, including Annie Brouwer (later mayor of Utrecht), are allowed to leave the train
June 8 : An ill passenger is released
June 9 : 2 negotiators talk again to the hijackers for hours
June 11 5:00AM: In the morning the crisis is ended after 482 hours
Engineer J.A. Manusama, then president of the RMS, and Rev. Metiarij acted as negotiators during the crisis.
Because of some disease in the school (probably caused by the food distributed in the school), the hijackers decided to release the children, but keep the teachers. According to medical doctor Frans Tutuhatunewa (later successor of RMS president), there was no health issue with the hostages in the train. Nevertheless, the health conditions of these hostages were used as an argument for the later attack on the train.
On June 11, 1977, a Saturday morning and almost three weeks after the start of the hijacking, six F-104 Starfighter jetplanes flew low over the train at 5:00 AM with the purpose of disorienting the hijackers and also make the hostages duck down to the floor of the train where they would be relatively safe. Then marines of the special anti-terrorist unit Bijzondere Bijstands Eenheid (BBE) started shooting at the train; an estimated 15,000 bullets were shot at the train. The marines aimed at the first class and in-between compartments with the doors because they knew these were the areas where the hijackers were hiding. One of the hostages killed was in such a compartment because she had been allowed there by the hijackers. Six hijackers were killed.
Three hijackers survived and were later convicted to sentences from six to nine years.
In 2007 there was a memorial service for the killed hijackers; the Moluccan community never offered any apologies, but two of the hijackers, motivated by a conversion to Christianity, had a meeting with former victims in 2007.
According to official sources, six of the hijackers were killed by the crossfire of bullets shot at the train. However many Moluccans believe that they were killed deliberately. On 1 June 2013 it was reported that an investigation by journalist Jan Beckers and one of the former hijackers, Junus Ririmasse, had concluded that three, and possibly four, of the hijackers were still alive when the train was stormed, and were executed by marines. In November 2014, it was revealed that Dries van Agt, Justice minister at the time, ordered that none of the hijackers were to leave the train alive. An in-depth investigation, of which the results were published in November 2014, concluded however that no execution has taken place, but there were in fact unarmed hijackers killed by marines.