Egypt Urged Raid on Jet, Malta Says : Government ‘Disappointed’ With Assault on Hijacked Plane, 60 Deaths

Times Staff Writer

Stunned by the heavy loss of life in the storming of a hijacked Egyptian airliner, the Maltese government said Monday that it bowed to pressure from Cairo to end the siege and is “greatly disappointed” with the outcome.

Government spokesman Paul Mifsud said that 60 of the 97 people aboard died in the hijacking of the EgyptAir 737 jet and the assault by Egyptian commandos that ended the incident Sunday night on the tarmac at Malta’s Luqa International Airport. Twenty-six people were injured, Mifsud said.

The government also said that a man identified as one of five terrorists who seized the Athens-to-Cairo flight survived the commando assault. He was hospitalized with injuries and remained unconscious Monday night.


Mifsud said that the hijackers’ identities and motivation are still unclear. He added that the government has not decided how to proceed with the wounded hijacker, if he survives.

Californian Killed

An American woman, Scarlett M. Rogenkamp, 38, of Oceanside, Calif., was killed by the hijackers before the plane was stormed. Two other Americans--Patrick Scott Baker, 28, of White Salmon, Wash., and Jackie Nink Pflug, 30, of Pasadena, Tex.--were wounded. Both were still hospitalized Monday, Baker in good condition and Pflug in stable condition.

Maltese Prime Minister Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici said in a speech to Parliament on Monday night that the government decided not to allow the plane to refuel and leave the Mediterranean island after hostages were killed and wounded.

To applause from the gallery of the 16th-Century palace, he said, “In no way should the impression be given of weakness in the face of cruelty and inhumanity of the hijackers.”

Mifsud Bonnici added that during negotiations with the hijackers, the government had indicated that if it allowed the plane to leave, “steps would be taken to force the plane to land in other territory.”

This was an apparent allusion to last month’s diversion to Sicily of an Egyptian airliner carrying the Palestinian hijackers of the Italian cruise liner Achille Lauro. By bizarre coincidence, the EgyptAir plane in the latest hijacking was the same one forced down then by U.S. Navy fighters.


The prime minister did not indicate if he based his statement on an actual understanding with the United States or some other nation that such steps would be taken. Hani Galal, the pilot of the hijacked plane, indicated at a news conference Monday that he thought it was a negotiation ploy.

The hijackers, Galal said, “were prepared--they were determined--to explode the plane in the air (in the face of any move to force it to land). We felt this was a very real possibility.”

At his own news briefing Monday night, government spokesman Mifsud read a prepared statement that said, “The government feels deeply sorrowed and greatly disappointed at the way the hijacking incident came to an end.”

He said that Maltese authorities “feel it should serve as an eye opener for the future in similar situations” and that the government “never expected” the assault on the plane to “result in such a high number of casualties.”

In response to a question about Egyptian pressure to allow the the attack on the captive aircraft, he said, “The Egyptians were insisting because they told the Maltese government that it was the only way out of this situation.”

The spokesman said his country received a message from President Reagan praising its firm stand against terrorism.


The message said that the Maltese “refusal to accede to the demand exemplifies the approach all civilized people must take to combat this evil.”

Grenades in Cabin

The heavy casualties resulted when the hijackers detonated three grenades in the crowded passenger compartment, setting a fire that destroyed the plane’s interior. Reporters were permitted to view the wreckage Monday and found scorch marks that reached the exterior of the 737 jet.

The bodies of 58 people were recovered from the burned wreckage. The bodies of two other people--those of Rogenkamp, whose body was thrown out of the plane after she was slain, and of a Philippine passenger fatally injured when the plane was stormed--were at the hospital.

Confusion over casualty figures arose repeatedly before a final count was established, in part because neither the Maltese government nor EgyptAir had counted a 16-month-old Canadian infant who was killed. No ticket was necessary for the child, which was carried in its mother’s arms, and therefore it was not listed on the passenger manifest.

In addition to the hijacker who survived, four other terrorists took part in the seizing of the plane 10 minutes after it took off Saturday from Athens on a regular flight to Cairo. One was killed by an Egyptian security guard soon after the hijacking began, and the three others died during the assault by Egyptian commandos Sunday night.

Pilot Galal said the hijackers were all Arabs and that he was 90% sure they were Palestinians. They had identified themselves as members of a group calling itself Egypt Revolution, which claimed responsibility for the fatal shooting of an Israeli diplomat in Cairo in August.


Most Likely Palestinian

Among the dead on the plane were eight children, all of them Palestinians.

Agents from the FBI and Egyptian police as well as the Maltese authorities interviewed the survivors Monday in an effort to learn more about the hijackers. The prime minister said in his speech to Parliament that the hijackers asked to talk with representatives of two Arab countries, of which only one has a diplomatic mission in Malta.

Although he did not identify either country, the representative of the Libyan People’s Bureau, the name that Libya gives to its overseas diplomatic missions, was at the airport control tower during much of the siege.

The Maltese leader said the hijackers had demanded that the Libyan go aboard the captive plane to speak with them, but that the envoy declined to do so after consulting his government.

Mifsud, the Maltese spokesman, said that a roster furnished by Egyptian authorities listed the following people aboard the plane by nationality: 22 Egyptians, 22 Filipinos, 17 Greeks, 12 Palestinians, three Americans, two Australians, two Canadians, two Mexicans, two Moroccans, two Israelis, two Spaniards, two French, one Tunisian and six crew members, all of them Egyptians.