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Hijackers Ordered Held for 15 Days Pending Indictment

September 8, 1986

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) _ A court on Monday ordered four Palestinian terrorists held for 15 days pending investigation of the takeover of a Pan Am jetliner.

Pakistani officials said 19 people, including two U.S. citizens, were fatally wounded in Friday’s grenade and submachine-gun attack on about 400 passengers held hostage inside the jet. The death toll rose to 19 Monday when a Mexican national, Jose Alvarez, died at the Shifa Naval Hospital, Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

More than 100 people were wounded.

President Mohammad Zia ul-Haq said the four Palestinians, one of whom remained hospitalized with an unspecified wound, will face the death penalty if convicted.

The detention and interrogation period was granted after police registered a case, but not specific charges, against the suspects. Pakistani law provides for the filing of formal charges by a magistrate only after a court hearing.

Three of the Palestinians were being held under heavy guard at the Malir army base four miles from Karachi airport, security officials said. The fourth was being treated at Jinnah Hospital, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Government and hospital officials said 13 Indians, two Americans, two Pakistanis and an unidentified child were killed when the terrorists hurled grenades and sprayed the plane’s interior with automatic weapons fire, they said.

Gen. Zia has said the hijackers, whom he described as men between 19 and 25 years old, would not be extradited to the United States, where warrants were issued for their arrest.

″The hijackers have committed a crime on the soil of Pakistan and we will try them here. They will receive the punishment that such a crime deserves,″ Zia told a news conference Sunday night.

Pakistani courts impose death by hanging for both murder and hijacking.

Pan Am flight 73 was taken over early Friday after it landed at Karachi from Bombay, India, before heading to New York via Frankfurt, West Germany. The gunmen, who had posed as airport security personnel, demanded to be flown to Cyprus, where they planned to demand the release of jailed Palestinians.

The flight was immobilized and never left the ground, because the pilot and other crew members escaped from the cockpit.

After nearly 17 hours of intermittent negotiations, the lights went out aboard the Boeing 747 and the hijackers opened fire.

Naturalized U.S. citizen Rajesh Kumar of Huntington Beach, Calif., was shot in the first hours of the hijacking. In Washington Monday, State Department spokesman Bruce Ammerman identified the second slain American as Surendra Manubhal Patel, 50. He said Mrs. Patel was from California.

U.S. officials have said 17 Americans were among the wounded.

In Bombay, the body of Neerja Mishra, the Pan Am flight attendant killed in the hijacking, was cremated Monday.

Miss Mishra, who would have celebrated her 23rd birthday Sunday, has been hailed by Indian newspapers as the ″heroine of the hijack″ for her apparent role in warning the cockpit crew of the takeover.

In London, a British college professor singled out by the hijackers and forced to kneel for 13 hours in anticipation of his ″execution″ said Monday, ″It’s like coming back from the dead. I’m very surprised to be here.″

Mike Thexton, 27, one of the 19 hijack survivors who flew to London Sunday night, said the hijackers collected passports and then read out his name and told him to kneel at the front of the aircraft while they apparently decided whether they would shoot him.

″The leader of the group was calm, polite and even quite apologetic for what was going on,″ Thexton said. ″He always seemed concerned for my welfare, asking if I wanted a drink or anything to eat. But there is no doubt he would have shot me.

″I was just there in case they needed someone to shoot,″ said Thexton, who escaped during the chaos when the hijackers opened fire.

Update hourly