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Croat who hijacked US plane in 1976 dies aged 67

September 6, 2013

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — Zvonko Busic, a Croatian nationalist who served 32 years in prison in the U.S. for hijacking a plane and also planting explosives that killed a policeman, has committed suicide. He was 67.

Police said Busic was found dead Sunday at his home in Rovanjska, near the coastal town of Zadar. They said he left a suicide note.

Busic led a group of five who in 1976 hijacked a TWA plane flying from New York to Chicago with some 80 passengers and crew members onboard, and also planted a bomb in a locker at New York’s Grand Central railway station that killed a policeman.

Busic and his group said at the time they wanted to draw attention to Croatia’s bid for independence from communist Yugoslavia.

They forced the pilots to fly the plane to Montreal, then London and Paris, where they eventually surrendered. The policeman in New York died while trying to defuse the Grand Central bomb.

Busic returned to Croatia in 2008 after he was paroled in the United States where he was serving a life sentence for air piracy.

Four other conspirators, including Busic’s wife, also were released after serving their sentences. As a condition of his parole Busic was barred from returning to the U.S. again.

In Croatia, which gained independence after Yugoslav wars of 1990′s, Busic received a warm welcome as a hero of the country’s struggle for statehood.

The country joined the European Union in July, but it remains corruption-plagued and economically weak.

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