FBI Agents Aid Hijacking Probe
KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) _ FBI agents consulted today with Pakistani officials and gathered evidence from the hijacking of a Pan Am jumbo jet which killed 19 people and left a 20th victim lying brain-dead in a Karachi hospital.
U.S. diplomats said investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation were meeting local police and security officials investigating the hijacking. But the case and prosecution were entirely under Pakistani control, they said.
″They’re (the FBI agents) not going to interfere, but they’re prepared to assist the Pakistanis if there is a request,″ said one diplomat, who like the others insisted on not being further identified.
Officials said the death count from the daylong hijacking Friday stood at 19 after a Mexican passenger died Monday night. A wounded passenger was clinically dead, but remained on life support machines, the officials said.
Associated Press of Pakistan identified the Mexican as Jose Alvarez and said he died at Shifa Naval Hospital.
Government and hospital officials said 13 Indians, two Americans, two Pakistanis and an unidentified child also were killed.
More than 100 other people were wounded when terrorists hurled grenades at passengers and sprayed the interior of the Boeing 747 with automatic weapons fire at the Karachi airport.
Police officials said today that three of four Palestinians accused of the hijacking were being interrogated at an army base in Karachi. A fourth wounded Palestinian, identified as the leader, was recovering in a hospital, they said.
On Monday, a magistrate gave police 15 days to hold the four for questioning while a case is prepared on hijacking and murder charges, both of which carry the death penalty by hanging.
Courts in Pakistan decide if charges will be pressed against suspects after a formal hearing in which police present their case and defendants are given a chance to respond. The process routinely takes weeks or even months.
Four gunmen disguised as airport security guards seized the plane with nearly 400 people on board Friday as it was boarding passengers on the tarmac at Karachi after landing from Bombay en route to Frankfurt, West Germany, and New york.
The plane was held for about 17 hours while the hijackers demanded a flight crew to take them to Cyprus, where they planned to demand the release of jailed Palestinian terrorists. The cockpit crew escaped at the start of the incident.
The hijackers fired on passengers and set off hand grenades after the planes’ lights went out.
U.S. diplomats said three FBI agents arrived in Karachi over the weekend to investigate the hijacking. Two other agents had already returned to the United States with an initial report and at least one more agent was expected, they said.
The agents would collect evidence and information for any possible U.S. case against the hijackers, but just as a precaution, the diplomats said. They said the United States was confident that Pakistan would take all necessary action.
Rajesh Kumar of Huntington Beach, Calif., was killed early in the hijacking. In Washington Monday, State Department spokesman Bruce Ammerman identified the second slain American as Surendra Manubhal Patel, a 50-year-old California woman. But today, Ammerman identified Patel as a man. Neighbors said he lived in Fullerton, Calif., and had been traveling with his two daughters.
Pan American World Airways announced Monday it had suspended flights to Karachi until authorities explain airport security lapses that resulted in the seizure of Pan Am flight 73.