LONDON (Sep. 10)
Palestinian guerrillas agreed last night to a 72 hour extension of their deadline for the release of some 300 hijacked airline passengers who have been held captive in Jordan since Sunday. (The new deadline will expire at 10 p.m. Saturday, New York time. It was to have expired at 10 p.m. last night.) According to Beirut radio all the hostages except Israelis will be freed if Britain, West Germany and Switzerland release seven Arab guerrillas in their custody. Israeli nationals apparently would be traded only for guerrillas held in Israel. The commandos today freed 21 of more than 100 passengers aboard a BOAC (British) airliner hijacked yesterday on a flight from Bahrein to Europe. Those released were all Arabs and an English girl engaged to one of them. Meanwhile, International Red Cross representatives in Amman are negotiating for the release of all of the passengers and crews of the hijacked aircraft. The Swiss and West German governments reportedly are ready to release six Arab terrorists imprisoned in those countries for previous attacks on airliners. But Britain is still undecided as to whether to free 24-year-old Laila Khaled, the survivor of an abortive attempt to hijack an El Al airliner off the British coast Sunday.
According to Beirut radio, the fate of the hostages now depends on Britain’s decision. The terrorists have declared that there will be no further extension of the deadline. It was not clear today what would happen if the deadline expired without a deal being made with the terrorists. They have threatened to blow up the aircraft, but terrorist spokesmen have made conflicting statements about the fate of the passengers and crew. International airline pilots meeting here today on the hijack problem appeared reluctant to take any steps that might jeopardize the safety of the hostages in Jordan. The International Federation of Airline Pilots’ Associations urged immediate steps for airplane and airport security such as bullet-proof cockpits and closed circuit television for surveillance of passenger compartments. But the organization tentatively rejected proposals that airliners carry armed guards. It is also holding in abeyance a decision on proposals to boycott nations giving haven to hijackers. There were hints however that IFALPA might revise some of its positions once the hostages are freed. The boycott proposal has the support of pilots groups from several non-Arab countries.
Egyptian authorities took their own anti-hijack measures yesterday. Cairo’s international airport was closed down and its runways blocked to prevent hijackers from landing a BOAC jet there yesterday. The action was said to reflect mounting anger over the recent hijackings and especially the destruction by explosives of a hijacked $24 million Pan American jumbo jet on Sunday which Egyptian authorities seemed powerless to prevent. Egypt is particularly concerned over possible boycott action that would seriously effect its economy. (The American airline industry appeared today to favor the idea of armed guards on international flights. Najeeb E. Halaby, president of Pan American Airways said his airline would cooperate fully if guards were offered. That was one measure reportedly under consideration by a Federal Aviation Administration task force set up this week to devise means to protect airliners from hijackers. Another was more intensive searches of passengers boarding planes.) The Zionist Federation issued a statement condemning the hijackings and demanding that all countries ban from their airports aircraft of other countries which tolerate hijacking or fail to extradite the criminals engaged in this activity. Duncan Sandys. Conservative MP declared on BBC Radio that if the present situation in Jordan, continues “nobody could blame Israel for a pre-emotive strike against Jordanian terrorist bases.” Czechoslovakia today became the first Communist country to condemn the hijackings. The official Czech News Agency warned that “these hijackings play into the hands of Israeli right-wing extremists.”