TEL AVIV (Apr. 19)
The Libyan copilot of the Boeing 727 airliner shot down by Israeli fighter planes over Sinai last Feb, 21 said here Tuesday night that the French pilot of the aircraft was solely to blame for the tragedy. The Libyan, Awad Mahadi, spoke to newsmen shortly to before his departure for Greece aboard an El Al plane. He was released from the hospital Tuesday after a medical board said he was well enough to travel though both of his legs are still in plaster casts.
Speaking English, the Libyan national said: “We were shot down because, of a gross error by the pilot. Every pilot can make mistakes, but this mistake cost the lives of over 100 people. The French pilot was among the victims. Mahadi said that he clearly saw the Israeli Phantom jets and identified the Israeli insignia on them. “I saw them signal for us to land and even heard the warning shots,” he said. “We started to land and put the wheels down but then the pilot decided to try and get away. Then the Israelis opened fire and the plane crashed,” the Libyan said.
The co-pilot said earlier in Jerusalem that the French captain had ordered the curtains drawn over the plane’s windows so that the passengers could not see the Phantoms. Later he claimed the passengers could not see the Phantoms because they were blinded by the sun. The Israeli fighter pilots testified during an inquiry into the disaster that the plane’s curtains were drawn which prevented them seeing that the airliner was carrying passengers and aroused their suspicion that it might be on a suicide mission over Israeli territory.