French Witnesses Say Hijacker Chose Victim From Alphabetic List With AM-Switzerland-Hijack
PARIS (AP) _ The passenger who was shot and killed on a hijacked jet in Geneva was selected to die by the Lebanese gunman because his name led an alphabetic list of French nationals, a passenger said.
The passengers, who arrived home from Geneva on Friday night, also said they planned their bold escape from a commandeered jumbo jet by ″exchanging looks and discreet gestures.″
The passengers stormed the exits of the Air Afrique jet about four hours after it landed at Geneva’s airport for refueling. In the confusion, the hijacker was subdued by a flight attendant.
A gunman identified as Hussein Ali Mohammed Hariri, a member of the pro- Iranian group Hezbollah, hijacked the jumbo jet, which was traveling from Brazzaville, Congo, to Paris, and demanded it be flown to Beirut.
Passenger Claude Jacquot, a French lawyer who lives in the Congo, said French travelers had their passports confiscated and were listed in alphabetical order by Hariri, who behaved ″like a meticulous bureaucrat.″
Hariri called Xavier Beaulieu, who was first on the list. After he was shot in the head and carried off the plane, the gunman called the next two passengers on the list.
Witnesses said the gunman threatened to kill one passenger every five minutes until his demands were met.
It was then that the passengers in the back made their move, a witness said.
A small group threw open the rear doors of the plane and the rest made a mad dash for the exits.
″It’s a miracle that no one was killed in that stampede for the door,″ Jacquot said.
The daily Le Figaro quoted an unidentified French oil worker as saying those in the rear of the plane labled themselved ″the resistance″ and planned the escape by ″exchanging looks and discrete gestures.″
″After I heard the word ‘Beirut’ pronounced, I looked at my buddies and we made a decision,″ he was quoted as saying. ″There was no question of letting the plane leave for Lebanon.″
Premier Jacques Chirac’s party, the Rally for the Republic, praised the ″courage of the passengers who on their own saved themselves from terrorism.″