U.S., European Hijack Victims Airlifted
Reports Conflict on the Fate of the Four Palestinian Terrorists
KARACHI, Pakistan--A U.S. Air Force medical transport plane staffed by battle surgeons evacuated 17 victims yesterday, including six Americans, who were wounded in the hijack of a Pan Am jumbo jet that killed at least 15 people.
Pakistani officials, meanwhile, issued conflicting statements about the fate of the four hijackers, all believed to be Palestinians. Some said all four survived. Others said one was killed, one was wounded and two were uninjured.
The gunmen, disguised as airport security workers, seized the aircraft with nearly 400 people aboard early Friday. They initially demanded to be flown to Cyprus, so they could free Palestinian terrorists jailed there.
The hijack ended 17 hours later when lights went out inside the aircraft and the hijackers fired at passengers and hurled grenades. Pakistani commandos wrested control of the aircraft half an hour after shooting began.
Pakistani officials said at least 15 people were killed, among them three Americans. Hospitals reported 127 people injured. White House officials said 17 of the injured were Americans.
Airline officials and sources have estimated about 80 Americans were aboard the flight, which originated in Bombay, India, and was headed for New York by way of Frankfurt, West Germany.
A C-141 medical evacuation plane was en route to West Germany after picking up 17 injured in Karachi, including six Americans, six Britons, three West Germans, an Italian and an Austrian, U.S. diplomats at the airport said. The wounded will be treated at U.S. military hospitals in West Germany.
Pan American World Airways sent a special plane to Karachi to pick up passengers who want to continue on to Frankfurt and then New York, airline officials said. The plane was scheduled to leave Karachi today.
Indian government officials said a special Indian government plane was also heading for Karachi to take Indian citizens to Bombay.
A police official, who insisted on anonymity, said 87 Arab students were rounded up in Karachi for questioning in connection with the hijacking. He would not say if the students were suspected of aiding the terrorists.
One hijacker had a Syrian passport, a second a Bahrain passport, and a third Palestinian travel documents, said Pakistani intelligence officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity. They said the nationality of the fourth hijacker was not known.
Palestinians often carry the passports of Arab nations, the officials said.
The four men apparently entered Pakistan from Bahrain in late August, the officials said.
In a statement issued yesterday, the White House said it was "not prepared to link those involved in this incident with any specific group or government."
Pakistani officials continued to issue conflicting reports about the number of passengers and hijackers killed and the scenario that led to the plane being stormed.
Brigadier General Tariq Rafi, commander of the federal Airport Security Force, told The Associated Press yesterday the four hijackers were being interrogated at an army camp outside Karachi.
He said he could not explain why other government officials said hijackers had been killed.
Khurshid Anwar Mirza, director general of the Civil Aviation Administration, said yesterday one hijacker was killed, one wounded and two captured.