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U.S. Authorities Use ‘long-arm’ Law to Nab Arab Hijacker Freed by Malta

July 19, 1993
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A Palestinian terrorist nabbed by FBI agents in Nigeria last week and whisked to the United States is believed responsible for the brutal murder of an Israeli woman and an American woman during a 1985 hijacking incident.

Omar Mohammed Ali Rezaq, who was convicted in Malta of hijacking an Egyptair jet there in November 1985 but released from prison early, was seized last Thursday at the airport in Lagos, Nigeria, and flown to Washington, where he was arraigned.

It was the second time in six years that U.S. authorities have made use of the so-called “long-arm statute,” which enables them to prosecute terrorist acts against Americans which took place outside the United States.

It is believed that pressure from Libya caused Malta to free Rezaq, who was serving a 25-year prison term for the hijacking and killings. It was reported that Rezaq, a Palestinian from Lebanon linked to the Abu Nidal terrorist group, acknowledged at his trial in Malta that he had killed the two women.

He was released in February, after having served seven years of his sentence, and went to Ghana.

Ghana complied with an American request to put Rezaq on a flight for Nigeria, where he was apprehended without incident after Nigerian authorities refused him entry to that country in a prearranged deal with Washington.

Rezaq was among either three or five Palestinian terrorists who hijacked Egyptair Flight 648 from Athens to Cairo on Nov. 23, 1985. Reports on the number of hijackers varied.

Two other hijackers were known to have been killed in an inferno of gunfire from Egyptian forces who stormed the plane a day after it landed at Malta’s Luqa Airport. The attempt was bungled, and 58 of the 98 passengers on board were also killed.

Rezaq, then 20, was critically wounded.


The day before, Nitzan Mendelson, 23, of Kibbutz Hulata in Galilee was mortally wounded by a point-blank bullet to the back of the head, as was Scarlett Rogenkamp, a U.S. Air Force employee from Oceanside, Calif. Their bodies were dumped off the plane by the hijacker who shot them, allegedly Rezaq.

Mendelson’s traveling companion, Tamar Artzi of Kibbutz Revivim, and two other Americans, Patrick Baker and Jackie Pflug, were shot but survived.

Mendelson and Artzi were the only Israelis aboard the Egyptair Boeing 737, which was 10 minutes into a two-hour flight from Athens to Cairo when it was hijacked.

The hijackers separated Americans and Jews from the other passengers, calling names over the loudspeaker.

In response to Rezaq’s capture, Abraham Foxman, national chairman of the Anti-Defamation League, said, “I welcome an aggressive policy to pursue and to bring to justice — proper justice, not one tempered by political expediency or blackmail — those who have carried out acts of international terrorism, and especially directed against U.S. citizens and Jews.”

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