Pakistani authorities have arrested a man identified as a Libyan national in connection with the hijacking of a Pan American World Airways jetliner last Friday at Karachi, a government source confirmed Thursday.
The man was said to have been arrested Wednesday at the international airport at Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital. His name has appeared in Pakistani press accounts as Salman al Turki or Salman Taraki.
United Press International quoted a law enforcement official in Karachi as saying the man has a Libyan passport that identifies him as an “engineer officer” with the Libyan government. This could not be confirmed with other officials.
The arrested man’s connection with the hijacking was not spelled out, but the Associated Press of Pakistan, a government news agency, said he was not “a ringleader.”
Since Friday, the Pakistani government has been carrying out sweeps of Arab and Palestinian neighborhoods here and in Karachi, in search of information related to the hijacking. But until Wednesday’s arrest, the government had given no indication that anyone other than the four Palestinians arrested at the scene was involved in the hijacking.
The four Palestinian men, all with passports issued by the government of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, were seized after they opened fire in the plane. In all, 19 people were killed or fatally wounded, including two American citizens.
The hijacking appeared to be carefully planned. The men drove through a cargo security gate in a van disguised as an airport security vehicle. At least two of them wore airport security uniforms made for them by a Karachi tailor.
The man identified as the leader of the four--whose name has been reported to be Gomer Hussain, Bomer Hussain or Moammar Hussain--had stayed for more than two weeks in a relatively expensive Karachi hotel. He paid his bill, which came to more than $1,000, in U.S. dollars.
The hijackers had rented a van, paying more than $1,400 cash in advance. They carried automatic weapons, along with hand grenades and, they said, other explosives.
At no time in their radio negotiations with Pan Am and airport officials did the hijackers, who spoke in Arabic, mention Libya or Libyan interests. They said they wanted to be taken to Cyprus and said they were seeking the release of several Palestinians held there.
A Saudi Arabian ticket agent who interpreted for the negotiators said he thought the four men spoke with Palestinian accents.
The newspaper that carried the first account of the arrest said the man identified as a Libyan was accompanied by a man who fled from the airport to a local office of the Palestine Liberation Organization. A senior government source discounted this part of the account.