LONDON (Sep. 9)
Arab hijackers seized a BOAC (British) airliner over the Persian Gulf today and forced it to land at a terrorist controlled airstrip in Jordan after a refueling stop at Beirut. It was the fourth successful hijacking since Sunday. It occurred as a three-man International Red Cross delegation was negotiating with Arab guerrillas in Amman for the release of over 200 passengers and crew members of two other hijacked planes who are being held hostage. The BOAC hijack was apparently carried out to put additional pressure on the British government to free Laila Khaled, the survivor of a commando team that tried unsuccessfully to hijack an El Al jet over Britain last Sunday. Israel has demanded Miss Khaled’s extradition. (A warrant for her arrest was issued in Jerusalem today at the request of Israeli States Attorney Meir Shamgar charging the 24-year-old Palestinian with attempted murder and conspiracy to murder.) The Red Cross team, headed by Andre Rochet, is negotiating on behalf of the governments of the United States, Britain, West Germany and Switzerland for the release of their nationals held by the terrorists in Jordan. The IRC is not representing Israel which has refused to have any dealings with the terrorists.
Terrorist demands were not entirely clear today. They appeared to want to exchange Miss Khaled. and six other Palestinian guerrillas now held in West German and Swiss prisons, for the freedom of the British, Swiss and German nationals aboard hijacked TWA and Swissair jets. They also apparently want a separate deal with Israel in which Israeli passengers and some passengers said to have dual Israeli and U.S. citizenship would be swapped for two high-ranking Algerian officials detained in Israel last month and an undetermined number of Palestinian guerrillas serving sentences in Israeli jails. But there is no certainty as to what the extent of their demands will be met particularly now that a British airliner with over 100 passenger and crew members has been seized. With the lives of some 300 people at stake, the West German and Swiss governments appeared to be ready today to make a deal with the hijackers. The British government too seemed likely to accede to terrorist demands and free Miss Khaled. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine which claims credit for all of the hijackings, has threatened to blow up the aircraft with all of their passengers if their demands are not met by a deadline tomorrow.
EXPLOSIVES ATTACHED TO FUSELAGES OF PLANES; GUERRILLA SAYS JEWS NOT HELD BECAUSE THEY ARE JEWS
Explosive charges reportedly have been attached to the fuselages of the TWA and Swissair jets in Jordan. A hijacked Pan American 747 jumbo jet hijacked to Cairo Sunday was blown up at Cairo airport only moments after its passengers and crew scrambled to safety. A spokesman for the Popular Front was quoted today as saying that the hijacked aircraft would be destroyed but that the passengers would be removed to a guerrilla camp. The apparent inclination by the Western governments involved to submit to terrorist demands has raised the question of whether a deal would include freeing all of the victims or whether Israeli nationals would be left behind at the mercy of the guerrillas. The Israel government demanded yesterday that any “package deal” cover everyone, regardless of nationality or religion. According to reports that could not be confirmed here, there are 46 Israelis aboard the TWA jet and 12 persons holding both Israeli and American citizenship. Reports from the guerrilla airstrip in Jordan yesterday said that Jewish passengers had been segregated from the others after everyone was asked to state his nationality and religion.
A terrorist spokesman identified only as “Bassam” said yesterday “We are not holding them because they are Jewish–they’re being kept for interrogation.” Asked whether the guerrillas planned to destroy the planes, he said, “You will know later.” Observers here said that if the Popular Front succeeded in freeing Arab guerrillas jailed abroad its stock would soar in the Arab world. Success for the PFLP is also viewed here as the probable death knoll for the regime of King Hussein of Jordan, whose authority in his own country is diminishing rapidly. Egyptian leaders also apparently fear a rise in the PFLP’s stature. The semi-official Cairo daily Al Ahram was critical of the hijackings though it did not go so far as to condemn them. The paper, a mouthpiece of President Gamal Abdel Nasser, said yesterday that “One of the main goals of the battle (with Israel) is to gain world public opinion on the side of the Palestinian struggle and not to lose it. It is evident that the attack on international civil aviation does not encourage world feeling of solidarity with the Palestinian cause. On the contrary, it incites a feeling of criticism in the ordinary man.”