LONDON (Aug. 19)
An official of the International Federation of Airline Pilots Associations (IFALPA) said here today that the crewmen and passengers of the hijacked El Al airliner held by Algeria since July 23 will probably be released in a few days. A leading Algerian newspaper disagreed. He said that IFALPA’s boycott action against Algeria was called off on the clear understanding that the seven crewmen would be released, and that while the five passengers were outside the scope of its representations, it was understood from the Algerians that they would also be permitted to leave.
The spokesman for the pilots’ groups said a couple of days may elapse before the Israelis are released so that the Algerians will not appear to have yielded under pressure. IFALPA refused to confirm or deny reports that Italy would mediate the return of the airliner, a $6 million Boeing 707, to Israel. But the Algerian newspaper El Moujahid, which speaks for President Boumedienne, Monday denied that any official agreement had been reached with the pilots federation to release the crew and remaining passengers. The newspaper said while the threatened boycott by the pilots was cancelled, no official agreement had been reached on the issue of releasing the Israelis.
Reports reaching here from Algeria meanwhile said that the airliner’s crew and passengers will probably be freed following a meeting today or Tuesday of the Cabinet, which is supposed to agree on a timetable for their release. The report, attributed to informed sources, said that the hijacked plane would probably be flown out by an Italian crew 48 hours after the Israeli detainees leave. The boycott was called off after agents of the Federation met Saturday with Algerian Foreign Minister Abdelaziz Bouteflika.