Mr. Klinghoffer was unfortunate enough to be a passenger on an Italian cruise ship, the Achille Lauro, which was hijacked by four members of the Palestinian Liberation Front off the coast of Egypt. The hijackers had two demands: They wanted 50 prisoners released from various Israeli prisons (including Lebanon's
Unfortunately for the hijackers, their plan went pear-shaped pretty fast. Syrian officials refused to let them dock the ship, and it didn't look like any prisoner releases were forthcoming from Israel either. Angered by their failure, the hijackers searched for some way to vent their anger and eventually settled--pretty much at random, from what I can tell--on punishing Leon Klinghoffer for the unforgivable crime of being Jewish and alive.
They shot him dead and forced two members of the ship's crew to throw him and his wheelchair--that's right; his wheelchair--overboard. Then they fed his wife, who didn't witness the shooting, a line of bullshit about him having been taken to the ship's infirmary to recover from some mystery illness. She didn't find out the truth until she'd gotten off the boat.
Let's talk about terrorists and their obsession with martyrdom.
Extremists--be they politically motivated, religiously motivated, or some unholy combination of the two--just love them some fantasizing about dying gloriously for the cause, preferably after killing lots and lots of those evil, oppressing infidels.
In their zeal and shortsightedness, however, they forget that the "other side" can make martyrs out of their dead too.
Still, you'd think that even the most worthless, mentally stunted dumbfuck of a terrorist (and they do have a hilariously high percentage of worthless, mentally stunted dumbfucks in their ranks) would be just a little smarter about picking a victim. I mean, really. A whole boat full of passengers, and the one guy they singled out for brutal murder was a disabled senior citizen who looked like everyone's sweet old grandpa?
Did they honestly not see the gigantic, public-relations-disaster-shaped flaw in this plan?
Of course they didn't. Hatred does weird things to people. It makes them impulsive and thoughtless. It makes them stupid.
And honestly, if you're the kind of person in the first place who would look at some random ship full of tourists and somehow make the mental leap to "I bet I could use that thing to get my buddies out of prison if I'm a big enough asshat!" then you probably stand even less of a chance against the brain rot.
As for the hijackers themselves, they accepted an offer of safe passage to Tunisia in exchange for leaving the ship. That didn't turn out very well for them. And in 1996, Muhammad Zaidan (AKA Abu Abbas), the mastermind of the Achille Lauro hijacking, tried to kind-of sort-of apologize for the murder. The Klinghoffer family was not impressed. Props to them for not straight-up telling the guy to drop dead. I'm not sure I would have shown such restraint in their place.