VIENNA (Dec. 17)
Austrian authorities announced today that they would beef up police protection at Vienna’s Schwechat Airport in anticipation of new Arab terrorist attacks because Austria is still admitting Jewish emigres from the Soviet Union en route to Israel. The announcement coincided with a new terrorist outrage at Leonardo da Vinci Airport in Rome where at least 42 persons were killed today when four Palestinian terrorists hurled incendiary bombs into a Pan American jet, sprayed the terminal with machine gun bullets and hijacked a Lufthansa jet which eventually landed at Athens The hijackers were reportedly negotiating with Greek authorities for the release of two terrorists jailed in Greece under the threat of murdering hostages and blowing up the Luthansa plane. Two of the hostages were murdered while the negotiations were going on, according to late reports.
According to reports from Rome, 21 persons were burned alive aboard the fire-bombed Pan Am jet and 19 others were mowed down by bullets in the terminal as they waited to board the plane, Italian authorities described the attack as an “unspeakable massacre.” The Pan Am plane was reportedly “devastated” by flames. One report said the bodies of the victims were charred beyond recognition, Panic was reported at the Rome air terminal. The terrorists made their machine gun and firebomb attack after they were detected by Rome airport authorities carrying concealed weapons aboard the Beirut-bound Pan Am plane, apparently with the intention of hijacking it once in the air. But they destroyed the American plane instead and seized a nearby West German airliner, forcing at least 11 hostages to board it under gunpoint. The pilot was forced to take off and the plane landed at Athens Airport after the hijackers reportedly were refused permission to land at Beirut, Lebanon.
At Athens, two of the hostages were shot to death and the terrorists reportedly threatened to shoot one hostage every ten minutes beginning at 8 p.m. Athens time unless the Greek government surrenders the imprisoned terrorists. It seemed likely that the hijackers had intended originally to make similar demands of the Italian government. Their attack at Rome airport occurred three days after the opening of the trial in Rome of three Arabs arrested last Sept. 5 in an aborted plot to shoot down an El Al airliner with ground-to-air missiles concealed near the approaches to Rome air port. Two other Arabs accused as accomplices were released on their own recognizance.
The announcement of increased police protection at Vienna airport was made before news of the Rome outrage was received here, In light of today’s events, the measures are expected to be even stiffer. Schwechat airport was the scene of a kidnapping attempt last Sept, 28 when Arab terrorists, with three Jewish emigres and an Austrian customs official as hostages, demanded safe conduct out of Austria. Chancellor Bruno Kreisky agreed to close Schoenau Castle in return for their lives. However, Austrian authorities were warned that the Palestinians consider Kreisky to have reneged on the deal. An Egyptian official, Selim Rizkallah, an undersecretary in the oil ministry, said in an interview with the Austrian daily, Linzer Volksblatt, that new Arab action against Austria was imminent. He claimed that while Schoenau was shut down last week the Austrians still hosted Jewish emigrants, having merely shifted their transit center to Woellersdort.