NEW YORK (Sep. 7)
An E1 A1 Boeing 707 jet with 148 passengers aboard landed at Kennedy Airport early this morning 12 hours late after its security guards foiled a mid-air hijack attempt by two Arab terrorists, killing one and wounding the other. The attempt was made after the plane took off from Schipel Airport at Amsterdam. Two passengers and a 39-year-old steward, Shlomo Vidor. were wounded in the gun battle. The airliner made an emergency landing at London where the wounded were hospitalized and the surviving hijacker taken into custody. A crowd of about 500 relatives and friends of the passengers gathered at Kennedy Airport before dawn. They screamed and cheered as the jet landed and pushed into the international arrivals building for emotional reunions with their kin. The E1 A1 plane was one of four international airliners carrying 600 passengers that were the targets of a coordinated hijack plan by Arab terrorists yesterday for which the extremist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine has claimed credit.
The E1 A1 plane was the only one in which the hijackers were resisted. Two of the others, a TWA 707 and a Swissair DC-8, were forced to fly to a guerrilla controlled airstrip at Mafraq. in Jordan where their passengers and crew are reportedly being held as hostages for Arab terrorists jailed in Israel and Europe. The third plane, a Pan American Boeing 747 jumbo jet was forced to land at Cairo where the terrorists blew it up moments after its passengers and crew were evacuated. A Pan American spokesman in New York said the passengers were safe and would be flown to the U.S. by the airline. He added that the $23 million jet was fully insured. Capt. Uri Barlev. who was piloting the E1 A1 jet when the hijackers attempted to seize it, flew home from London last night after reporting briefly to Premier Golda Meir and Defense Minister Mosho Dayan by telephone. The two security guards also returned to Israel after being interrogated by Scotland Yard. The surviving terrorist was identified as Miss Laila Khaled. 24, who was born in Haifa. She and her male companion boarded the E1 A1 flight at Schipel using Honduran passports. Security checks at the Dutch airport failed to detect the arms they carried.
According to eye-witness accounts from passengers who landed at Kennedy today and reports from London, the E1 A1 plane had just set course for New York when a young man pulled out a gun and rushed for the pilots’ compartment. The girl threatened passengers and crew with a hand grenade. A moment later, shots were heard from the pilots’ compartment. Several male passengers overpowered the girl and disarmed the grenade. The incident was over in several minutes. Some passengers in the rear of the plane said they were unaware that anything was wrong until they heard the gunshots and saw the struggle in the aisle. E1 A1 has taken unspecified security measures since one of its planes was hijacked to Algeria two years ago. But it was an open secret that security guards “ride shotgun” on every flight and as evidenced by yesterday’s incident they are trained to respond quickly and accurately.