French pilot in 1976 Uganda hijacking dies at 95

FILE - In this July 5, 1976 file photo, head pilot Michel Bacos, center left, is reunited with his wife, 2nd left, and son at Orly Airport near Paris, France, as the 12-member crew of the hijacked Air France Airbus jetliner and 14 passengers return home from Tel Aviv after a week-long stay at Entebbe Airport in Uganda. The French pilot of the Air France plane hijacked to Uganda's Entebbe airport in 1976, in which 110 hostages were freed by Israeli commandos, has died at the age of 95. (AP Photo, File)

French pilot remembered as a hero for his actions in the 1976 hijacking of an Air France plane to Uganda's Entebbe airport has died at the age of 95.

PARIS — A French pilot who's remembered as a hero for his actions in the 1976 hijacking of an Air France plane to Uganda's Entebbe airport died Tuesday at the age of 95.

Nice mayor Christian Estrosi said in a statement that Michel Bacos died in the southern French city.

Bacos was awarded the Legion of Honor, France's highest decoration, for refusing to leave the plane's passengers after the plane was hijacked and grounded.

"By refusing with bravery to quit in the face of anti-Semitism and barbary, he honored France," Estrosi said.

The Tel Aviv-Paris flight was hijacked on June 27, 1976 by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and a German radical group. The hijackers released 148 non-Israeli passengers after the plane landed in Uganda. Bacos remained with the hostages despite offers of release.

The seven pro-Palestinian hijackers held some 110 Jewish and Israeli hostages in the airport terminal for nearly a week before Israeli commandos led by Yonatan Netanyahu, the older brother of Israel's current prime minister, freed them.

The commandos flew over 2,500 miles (4,023 kilometers) from Israel to Uganda to attempt the daring operation. Yonatan Netanyahu was the sole Israeli military casualty in the raid on Entebbe. Three Israeli hostages were killed along with all seven of the hijackers.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Bacos as the "hero captain" of the hijacked Air France flight on Twitter: "I bow my head in his memory and salute Michel's heroism."

Benny Davidson, one of the former Israeli hostages, remembered Bacos as "a dear man and a great hero."

Davidson, who was 13 at the time of the hijacking, wrote on Facebook that Bacos "taught us a lesson in leadership, responsibility and exemplarity."

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