L.A.-bound Flight With 153 Hijacked; 37 Freed
Armed Arab terrorists who hijacked a TWA jet over Greece with 153 people aboard--most of them Americans, some bound for Southern California--released 37 passengers during a terror-filled odyssey today and then took off for an unknown destination.
The Boeing 727, seized minutes after it departed from the Athens airport for Rome, was first forced to land at Beirut International Airport, where 19 passengers--17 women and two children--were freed in exchange for fuel.
The plane was then forced to the Algerian capital of Algiers, where it landed with 134 people aboard, including eight crew members.
5 Hours of Talks
After five hours of fruitless attempts at negotiation, 18 more passengers were released before the jet took off again, the Algerian news agency APS said.
A TWA spokesman in Los Angeles said four Southern Californians were among the passengers released. He identified them as “Delgado (no first name) of Escondido and L. Peel, A. Berry and Guarza (no first name), all of Los Angeles.”
The airline said 104 of the original people aboard are American. Among the original passengers, 34 were part of a Roman Catholic group from Rockford, Ill., returning from a tour of the Middle East. The flight, which was to have continued from Rome to Boston and on to Los Angeles and San Diego, had an undetermined number of Southern Californians aboard.
The hijackers, believed to number from two to four and to be armed with grenades and Soviet AK-47 submachine guns, issued a list of demands in negotiations conducted with Algerian authorities.
They demanded that Israel release fundamentalist Muslims detained in its prisons and called for a public denunciation of a bombing attack in Beirut on March 8 that killed 85 people.
“If the demands are not met, the hijackers threaten to execute the hostages,” APS said.
Islamic Jihad Takes Credit
The pro-Iranian Islamic Jihad terrorist organization claimed responsibility for the third hijacking in the Middle East in as many days.
In Washington, President Reagan was awakened early today and told of the crisis. “We’re doing everything we can do” to assure the passengers’ safety, he told reporters after a Rose Garden ceremony.
Asked whether there had been any contacts with Iran, he said, “I can’t talk about that.”
Passengers freed in Beirut were flown to Cyprus. They told reporters that two men sitting in the back of the Trans World Airlines plane ran from their seats about 15 minutes into the flight, entered the cockpit and seized control.
“They told us to put our hands up behind our heads and put our heads down,” said Irma Trautman of Laredo, Tex. “When we got to Beirut, my daughter and I were told to move to the front of the plane. Someone opened the door and they told us to jump and get off.”
Man Reported Shot
Other passengers said some people aboard were beaten. Trautman said one man was shot in the neck and wounded. Many of those freed said they had relatives on board.
Controllers at the Beirut airport had repeatedly refused landing permission for TWA Flight 847--to no avail.
The pilot radioed that one hijacker was brandishing a hand grenade with the pin pulled and threatening to kill everyone aboard.
“You have no permission to land at Beirut,” an air traffic controller radioed the aircraft while it was still over the Mediterranean.
“Beirut, the hijacker has pulled the pin on his hand grenade. We will land in Beirut! He is desperate. He has pulled a hand grenade pin and he is ready to blow up the aircraft! We must--I repeat must--land at Beirut. No alternative,” the pilot radioed back.