Second Hostage Is Slain Aboard Kuwait Airliner
The hijackers of a Kuwaiti jumbo jet shot and killed another hostage Monday at Larnaca airport and threw his body from the plane to press their demands for fuel.
The body of the victim, believed to be one of three Kuwaiti military officers on board the flight, was tossed onto the tarmac shortly after the expiration of one of several deadlines the hijackers set during the day for the Boeing 747 to be refueled.
‘More Dangerous Steps’
Announcing his death, the hijackers threatened to “take more dangerous steps” unless their demands were met. Later, after nearly 3 1/2 tense hours of silence, they put one of the hostages on the radio to plead with Cypriot authorities for fuel.
“My name is Fadel Marzouk el Oteibi,” the hostage said in Arabic. “Please tell my parents I am all right so far. But the hijackers say they will kill the passengers if you don’t give us fuel. Please give us fuel.”
The man killed Monday was the second hostage to be slain by the hijackers since the Kuwait Airways jetliner arrived in Larnaca’s small seaside airport Friday night after a harrowing flight across the Middle East from Iran. Another man, initially referred to as a Kuwaiti security guard but later as a military officer, was killed Saturday, also to dramatize the demand for fuel.
Monday’s slaying appeared to come as a deeper shock to Cypriot authorities because it also effectively killed the hope that negotiators earlier had raised for an imminent end to the hijacking, now in its eighth day.
Details of the negotiations, being conducted at plane-side by a joint delegation from Cyprus and the Palestine Liberation Organization, have been kept secret. But a Cypriot spokesman suggested to reporters that an “extremely important” message conveyed to the hijackers early Monday might break the stalemate and lead to the release of the more than 40 hostages still on board.
Those hopes were set back later in the morning, however, when the hijackers set the first of three new deadlines for the plane to be refueled, saying they planned to fly it next to “a neutral country.”
They accused the Cypriots of failing to reciprocate for a “good-will gesture” they made Saturday when they released one passenger shortly after killing the first security guard, who Cypriot authorities said appeared to have been “severely tortured” before being killed.
This time, they said, “we will kill a personality related to the unjust Kuwaiti regime” if the refueling did not start within one hour.
Three members of Kuwait’s ruling Sabah family are among the hostages still on board the blue and white jetliner, and the hijackers’ threat appeared to be a reference to them.
A few minutes before each deadline was about to expire, the control tower radioed the plane to say that the negotiators wanted to talk to the hijackers. The hijackers agreed, but by the time the second deadline approached, the somewhat chilling politeness with which they had been conversing with the control tower showed signs of cracking.
‘I Want an Answer Now’
“I want a yes or no answer,” one of the hijackers snapped. “I want an answer now (on refueling).”
In another sign of the mounting tension, the hijackers refused to let the negotiators stand on the mobile staircase used in previous rounds of plane-side negotiations.
At their insistence, Malaz Abdo, the PLO official involved in the talks, approached the plane alone and on foot and spoke to the hijackers from the ground with the aid of a megaphone.
Soon after he left, the control tower asked the terrorists for another 30 minutes to consider their latest demands.
“OK,” one of the terrorists replied, “but 30 minutes will be the final extension. After 30 minutes, either we receive the fuel or you receive a corpse.”
Body Topples to Tarmac
Abdo went out to the plane again shortly after that deadline expired and spoke briefly with the terrorists. A few minutes later, the airplane’s front exit door opened briefly and a body, clad in tan boxer shorts and a blue T-shirt, toppled to the tarmac.
“We hereby announce that we have executed a Kuwaiti officer,” one of the hijackers announced in a monotone. “This is due to the wishes of the Cypriot government, which had decided to support the criminal countries against the people looking for freedom.”
The hijacker signed off, and the control tower lapsed into silence. The body remained on the tarmac for nearly 30 minutes before an ambulance came to fetch it.
Part of the delay appeared to be caused by the arrival of another plane, which landed and disgorged a group of Scandinavian tourists who shuffled into the arrival hall without appearing to notice either the hijacked jet or the body sprawled on the ground only a few hundred yards away.
Indeed, one of the strangest aspects of the bizarre drama at Larnaca has been the business-as-usual atmosphere in which the airport has been operating even as the tragedy unfolds within sight of crowds of vacationers. Demands are made, deadlines set and bloodied bodies tossed to the ground like jettisoned cargo as tour groups come and go and passengers argue with ticket-counter officials over double bookings and lost luggage.
Pleasure boats ply the azure waters nearby and wind surfers dart along the coast, imposing a surreal dimension on the life-and-death proceedings taking place only 100 yards away.
Security, which has been extremely discreet, was notched up noticeably Monday, however, with two armored personnel carriers taking up positions a few hundred yards ahead of and behind the plane.
Demanding Release of 17
The terrorists, who are believed to number between five and eight, all armed with pistols and hand grenades, hijacked the jetliner last Tuesday on a homeward-bound flight from Bangkok to demand the release of 17 Shia Muslim extremists imprisoned in Kuwait.
They have not identified themselves, but they are believed to be members of one of the Shia terrorist groups holding Western hostages in Lebanon.
Kuwait has refused to consider their demands and, although a Kuwaiti government delegation is on hand here at the airport, there has been no sign of its members taking an active part in the negotiations so far.