An Algerian expelled from France hijacked an Air France jetliner carrying more than 100 people Wednesday by threatening to blow up the plane, but he surrendered peacefully, and his "bomb" turned out to be a bar of soap and a can of shaving cream.
Said Djamel, a 30-year-old merchant, gave up soon after the A-300 Airbus landed at Algiers airport, its original destination, at 2:20 p.m. The 115 passengers and crew disembarked unharmed.
Algerian officials said Djamel had threatened to blow up the plane with a package hidden under his jacket. But before police led him away, he showed reporters a plastic bag he said contained only a can of shaving cream and a bar of soap.
Holding an impromptu news conference on the tarmac, Djamel said he had acted to draw world attention to the plight of Lebanese and Palestinians and to demand an international conference on the Lebanese crisis.
'Palestinians Who Die'
"There are Palestinians who die every day. Let us come to an understanding, sit at a table, discuss and finish," he said.
Asked what his demands were, Djamel said: "On the one hand, an international conference on Lebanon. In Palestine, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat has directly recognized Israel. . . . Let there be a dialogue between the PLO and the Israeli government."
Early reports of the hijacking prompted speculation that it had been mounted by a Middle East group angered by France's decision to send a naval task force to Lebanon, a French protectorate between the two world wars.
Algerian police said Djamel has used the alias Bendada. The French news agency Agence France-Presse, citing unidentified sources in Paris, said he was expelled from France for disturbing the peace and said he "displayed great agitation" before being put on the flight to Algiers.
Pilot Joseph Vallat, however, said the hijacker was calm and well-dressed and never left his seat.
According to Vallat, Air France Flight 2323 from Paris to Algiers was over Perpignan in southwestern France when a flight attendant rushed into the cockpit with a note scribbled by the hijacker, demanding that "the aircraft be diverted to Tunis."
Tunisian authorities refused to let the plane land. It turned back to Algiers, where the drama ended after 20 minutes of talks between the hijacker and Algerian authorities, Vallat said.
The jet came to a halt at the end of an abandoned runway at the edge of the airport, and some passengers were unaware that they had been hijacked until they saw the plane ringed with troops.
"I had no idea what was happening. I thought maybe there had been mechanical trouble," said Algerian passenger Moulud Ghondjil.