Soviet Hijackers Surrender in Israel

TEL AVIV, Israel--Five armed Soviets who hijacked a busload of schoolchildren in the Soviet Union and released them in exchange for a plane out of the country surrendered yesterday after landing in Israel with a hostage crew.

The Ilyushin-76 plane landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv at 5:45 p.m. (10:45 a.m. EST). Israel Army radio said the plane was allowed to land after officials received a request from the Soviet Union.

"It's all over," an army spokesman told reporters about 10 minutes after eight people were seen leaving the aircraft. There was no word on whether the eight crew members who were freed had been injured during the ordeal.

Army officials said that shortly after the plane landed, two men and a woman came out of the plane and asked for a translator. They then started brief negotiations in which the hijackers surrendered a gun.

The standoff ended a short time later.


State-run Israel radio said the hijackers, described as four Russians and an Armenian with criminal backgrounds, had large sums of money with them. "It seems as though they were involved in a crime before they took over the plane," the radio said.

Just before the plane landed, radio monitors could hear the pilot say: "Ilyushin approaching. Shalom. We are heading runway 26."

"Welcome to Israel. Please state the purpose of your visit," the tower responded.

Transportation Minister Chaim Korfu told reporters the Soviets had requested extradition of the hijackers.

Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin said the plane and the crew would be returned to the Soviet Union. "The hijackers will be interrogated and Israel will act according to international law," Rabin said. He was quoted as saying later on NBC News that "...those who violated the Russian law" will be returned to Soviet authorities.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Allon Liel said he was not aware of any written Soviet request for extradition, but he added, "I don't see any reason why we would want to hold them."

He said the Soviet Union and Israel did not have an extradition treaty, but that both nations have signed international treaties on punishing and extraditing airplane hijackers.

"We know there are no children aboard," Korfu said. "There are five hijackers, four men and a woman, and eight crew members."

Army radio said there had been constantcontacts between Israeli and Soviet airportofficials and some diplomatic contacts as well.

It said the hijackers had not asked to landspecifically in Israel but only included it on alist of possible destinations.

Reporters were kept in the terminal buildingand could only see the movements of vehicles onthe darkened runway once the plane landed.

In Moscow, an official said the incident beganThursday in the city of Ordzhonikidze in southernRussia.

"A group of armed bandits hijacked a bus with30 schoolchildren and a teacher and demanded aplane to deliver them abroad," Albert Vlasov, headof the Soviet news agency Novosti, told a newsconference.

"In order to save the children and the teachera decision was made to give a plane," Vlasov said.He said the hostages were released unharmed.

In a later report, the Soviet news agency Tasssaid the hijackers had three pistols and anautomatic rifle