Italy Checking for PLO Role in Failed Hijacking to Tunis

Italian authorities are investigating the failed hijacking Sept. 19 of an Alitalia flight to Tunis.

Though it appears to have been the work of a lovelorn Tunisian immigrant upset by losing his job in Italy, the authorities are not fully convinced there was not a political motive.

One source of suspicion was the presence on the aircraft of Nemer Hammad, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s representative in Italy.

The authorities also suspect that the admitted hijacker, Hedi Ben Hassan Bouchnak, might have pretended to be mentally unhinged to cover his real motives when it became clear the hijacking attempt would fail.

Arrested in Tunis, Bouchnak said he tried to seize the plane with 137 people aboard for revenge because “Italy treated me badly.”

Italian news reports said Bouchnak was depressed by financial difficulties after he lost his job and by problems with his fiancee, who stayed in Tunis when he moved to Italy.

Reports said that Bouchnak claimed to have a pistol and a bomb when he briefly took over the plane in flight. In fact, he had neither, which came as a relief to officials of Fiumicino Airport.

Fiumicino was the scene of one of the worst terrorist acts of the last decade when, in 1985, Palestinian gunmen killed or wounded dozens of people in the E1 A1 airline terminal. Since then, the airport has been regularly patrolled by a force of some 600 uniformed and plainclothes security men assisted by trained dogs.

Airport director Mario Luzzati told the newspaper La Repubblica that it would be “practically impossible” for anyone to board a plane carrying arms or explosives.

NEXT STORY