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Hijacker of Iberia Flight Gives Up

June 23, 1998

VALENCIA, Spain (AP) _ A Spanish hijacker holding more than 100 people hostage aboard an Iberia flight gave himself up to police today to peacefully end a nearly four-hour standoff.

The hijacker, who was not immediately identified, was described by an interior ministry spokesman as mentally unstable.

Iberia Flight 1121 was carrying 131 people when it was hijacked during a flight between Seville and Barcelona. The Boeing 727 was diverted to the eastern city of Valencia. Eighteen children and adults were released without incident about two hours later.

Among the hostages aboard was the mayor of Seville, Soledad Becerill, who was in contact with police through her mobile phone, Ehud Gol, Israel’s ambassador to Spain, told Israel radio. ``From her reports, there appears to be only one hijacker,″ Gol said.

The hijacked airplane landed at Valencia’s Manises airport at 8:40 a.m. (2:40 a.m. EDT), apparently to begin refueling, a police spokesman said. The plane was surrounded by security forces, however, and was not refueled, Israel radio reported, monitoring Spanish TV.

Initial reports were that three people hijacked the plane, national radio reported, and had demanded to be taken to Athens and then on to Tel Aviv, Israel. Athens airport officials boosted security and placed anti-terrorists teams on the alert.

Although CNN reported that Israel refused to give the plane permission to land, officials at Ben-Gurion International Airport outside Tel Aviv said that decision would be up to the government.

Iberia employees brought water and food to the plane wearing only bathing suits, as requested by the hijackers, so no weapons could be hidden, Israel Radio reported.

Israel radio said the hijacker had been carrying a package with a remote control device and said he would explode the package unless his demands were met.

Troops soon surrounded the plane, which was parked out on the tarmac away from the main airport and other planes.

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