Entebbe Pilot Defends Egyptian Operation in Malta With Hijack-Egypt
NICE, France (AP) _ The pilot of the Air France plane hijacked to Uganda’s Entebbe airport in 1976, in which 110 hostages were freed by Israeli commandos, said Tuesday the Egyptian assault on a jetliner in Malta was necessary.
Michel Bacos said, ″When passengers are being killed, there are no more stops, and it is terrorism itself which must be stopped or the world, with arms crossed, will be watching the execution of innocent hostages.″
Egyptian commandos on Sunday attacked an Egyptair jetliner that had been hijacked by five terrorists, and 58 people were killed in the shooting, grenade explosions and a fire that swept through the plane during the raid.
Five passengers - three Americans and two Israelis - had been shot early Sunday by the hijackers; and one, Scarlett Marie Rogenkamp, 38, of Oceanside, Calif., died.
There were 98 people on the Boeing 737 that was hijacked Saturday while en route to Cairo, Egypt, from Athens, Greece, and four of the terrorists were among the 58 who died during the shooting and fire.
There has been criticism of the assault, with some critics saying the commandos were inept.
Bacos, in an interview with Radio Monte Carlo, said, ″We must not condemn. We must await the results of an inquiry to know if this operation was carried out well or badly.″
He was asked about the Israeli soldiers who rescued the Air France hostages on July 4, 1976, after they had been held in an airport terminal building for nearly a week by seven pro-Palestinian hijackers.
The Israelis ″fired on anything that moved,″ Bacos said.″Anyone who was standing up - who panicked - was a target of Israeli sharpshooters who couldn’t differentiate between hostages and terrorists.″
Four hostages were killed along with the terrorists at Entebbe, but 110 hostages were freed.
″At Entebbe, we didn’t yet have passengers executed when the commandos entered and could still hope for a dialogue,″ Bacos said. ″But as soon as passengers are being killed, dialogue becomes very difficult.″
Bacos has retired but is a delegate in the security section of France’s national pilots’ union.