An international investigation was continuing today into terrorist attempts to blow up two El Al airliners in midair over Europe last week. Although most of the details are still lacking. It was learned today that disaster was averted only because the activating devices in two suitcases filled with explosives failed to function. It was also learned that the suitcases were brought aboard the planes by innocent passengers-two young girls, one from Holland and one from Peru-who were apparently duped into doing it by unidentified young men they had recently met. Airports all over Europe have been alerted meanwhile against possible new sabotage attempts. International intelligence agencies have already warned governments and aviation authorities of the possibility of renewed sabotage activity by Arab terrorists who, no longer able to strike at Israel from Jordan or Lebanon, may make targets of El Al or other planes. At the same time, El Al announced that it would institute new strict security measures and Israel’s Cabinet discussed the airline’s security measures. Shimon Peres, Minister of Transport and Communications, stated after the Cabinet meeting that the sabotage efforts represented a new means of terrorism despite the fact that they had been unsuccessful. The new sabotage attempts coincided almost to the day with last year’s multiple hijacking of one British and two American airliners by terrorists of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the aborted attempt to seize an El Al jet in the air over Britain. According to an unconfirmed report here today, a hijack attempt against another El Al jet was foiled at London Airport last week.
The report said that a toy pistol was smuggled aboard the airliner inside a cake by a girl who claimed she received it from an unknown person. Aviation officials believe the attempt may have been a “dry run” by a terrorist group to test El Al security measures which have since been tightened. The first inkling that anything untoward had occurred came last Friday when the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that policemen were inspecting passengers’ luggage at the customs checkpoints at Lydda Airport. According to information disclosed today, the explosives were placed aboard El Al jets last week in London and Rome. In one instance a Dutch girl unknowingly carried an explosive-filled suitcase aboard an Israel bound El Al jet at the request of a young man described as a “hippie” type whom she had met at a travel agency. According to the girl’s story he proposed marriage and both decided to go to Israel. Shortly before their departure, however, the man said he couldn’t make the same plane but would follow her on the next. He asked her to take one suitcase for him so that he could avoid paying overweight charges. The girl boarded the plane without disclosing that she was carrying luggage of unknown content. But she told the story to a young Israeli passenger and at his suggestion they delivered the mysterious suitcase to security authorities when they landed at Lydda. There the suitcase was found to contain explosives. The Peruvian girl told a similar story of how she was befriended by a dark haired young man who managed to switch suitcases with her on the way to the airport. That suitcase was also filled with explosives and had a defective activating device. Authorities here are convinced that both girls are innocent inasmuch as they would not knowingly have taken such deadly devices aboard a plane in which they were passengers.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.