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Soviet Convicts Who Hijacked Jet Seek Asylum

From Associated Press

Eleven prisoners from a Siberian labor camp overpowered their guards, hijacked a Soviet jetliner to Pakistan, then surrendered and sought political asylum today, officials said.

Tass news agency said one of the prisoners apparently smuggled weapons aboard the flight in an artificial limb.

It was the latest in an unprecedented spate of hijack bids involving Soviet aircraft, at least the 13th in three months.

The Aeroflot Tupolev 154, carrying 29 other passengers and a crew of nine, landed at Karachi International Airport with only five to 15 minutes of fuel remaining, airport officials said.

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The hijackers gave themselves up about two hours after landing, the officials said. Authorities said all aboard the commandeered plane appeared to be unharmed.

Authorities did not say whether the hijackers would be given asylum or sent back to the Soviet Union.

The escapees were armed with guns and homemade explosives, and they had threatened to blow up the plane, the independent Soviet news agency Interfax said.

The episode began Sunday when 15 prisoners were traveling aboard an Aeroflot flight from Neryungry, 3,100 miles east of Moscow, to the nearby city of Yakutsk in eastern Siberia.

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They disarmed their guards and took over the plane, forcing it to return to Neryungry, where their labor camp was located, officials said.

There, six prisoners decided to leave the plane, but two more joined the hijackers, Soviet Interior Ministry spokesman Yuri I. Arshenevsky said. Tass news agency said the six convicts who left the plane were ordered to do so.

The hijackers allowed 41 women and children among the remaining 70 passengers to leave the airline in Neryungry, Arshenevsky said.


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