American College Student Didn’t Know Why He Was Released With PM-Lebanon Hijacking, Bjt
ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ An 18-year-old American college student freed after a four-day ordeal as a hostage aboard a hijacked TWA jetliner says he has no idea why he was released.
″I was scared when I was taken out of the house where we were kept. I didn’t know I was going to be freed. I have no idea why they let me go,″ Athanassios Targontsidis, known as ″Arthur″ to his friends, told The Associated Press.
Targontsidis was freed in Beirut on Tuesday along with Greek folk singer Demis Roussos and his American secretary, Pamela Smith. The three sailed to Cyprus on Tuesday and flew to Athens on Wednesday.
″It was the strangest thing that ever happened to me. I was terrified while we were aboard the plane, but it was OK in Beirut,″ the tall, sandy- haired student said Wednesday.
Targontsidis, a freshman student of accounting and finance at the American College in Athens, was on his way to Rome and Boston last Friday when the TWA Boeing 727 was hijacked.
″I was going to join my parents in Brockton, Mass. for the summer,″ he said.
The TWA flight was hijacked by gunmen demanding the release of about 700 Shiite Moslem guerrillas held in Israel. It flew to Beirut and Algiers twice, then landed at Beirut again Sunday night.
″The atmosphere in the plane was really bad. I couldn’t understand why the hijackers were running up and down the aisle all the time. We were told to stay in our seats. I didn’t see anybody move,″ he said.
Targontsidis, of Greek descent, said he became ″terrified″ when the hijackers started calling out names while the plane was on the ground in Algiers.
″I thought they were calling out the names of people they were going to kill. Then I realized it was all the Greeks on the plane,″ he said.
″They called out Athanassios, but not my surname. I’m used to being called Arthur. I didn’t get up,″ he said.
A total of 68 passengers were freed in exchange for Ali Atwa Tourenda, a self-confessed accomplice in the hijack arrested in Athens after he was bumped from the flight prior to takeoff.
But they did not include Roussos, who was freed after the Greek government protested to Nabib Berri, leader of the Amal Shiites.
″On the plane I kept praying for my grandmother in Boston. She’s 75 and I thought something might happen to her if she heard I’d been hijacked,″ he said.
Targontsidis said he was taken off the plane during the second stop in Beirut, early Saturday.
″I’m confused about the time. But it was the second time in Beirut I was taken off, in the dark. I was driven about 25 minutes in a jeep to a house,″ Targontsidis said.
Targontsidis said he was held in the house with four other hostages from the plane.
″The atmosphere was completely different there. There was good food. The people were polite and kind to us,″ he said.
Targontsidis said he met Roussos and the singer’s secretary at a crowded press conference held Tuesday to announce their release.
″I didn’t realize I was freed until just before we were put on the boat to Cyprus,″ he said.
Roussos relaxed in his secretary’s apartment in an Athens suburb Wednesday saying he was ″tired and confused.″
The 39-year-old singer, dressed casually in shorts and a sport shirt, said he didn’t want to talk about the ordeal because ″other people’s lives are still in danger.″
″In view of the fact that other people’s lives are in danger I don’t wish to make any comment at the present time on what’s been a most traumatic experience,″ the singer said. ″I’m extremely tired and confused and hope that the press and public will understand my predicament.″
His secretary, Ms. Smith, made no comment.