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Arab Homes in Karachi Searched for Hijack Clues

September 09, 1986|RONE TEMPEST | Times Staff Writer

KARACHI, Pakistan — Police officers and agents of the federal investigative agency searched Palestinian dwellings and student dormitories here Monday for clues to last Friday's hijacking of a Pan American World Airways jetliner.

An estimated 3,000 Palestinians live in Karachi, about two-thirds of them students.

Four men identified as Palestinians were captured after they raked the cabin of the Boeing 747 with gunfire and hand grenades, killing or fatally wounding 17 passengers and injuring about 127 others. Earlier, they had slain a naturalized American, Rajesh Kumar, a Huntington Beach businessman, and dumped his body on the tarmac.

Tawfiq Malhi, the representative in Karachi of the Palestine Liberation Organization, told reporters he would cooperate with the Pakistani authorities in their investigation.

Terrorism Condemned

"We are condemning this terrorist act," Malhi said.

He said he did not know whether the four men arrested for the hijacking were Palestinians, as the Pakistan government says, but "I can assure you that they are not belonging to the PLO."

Early Monday, a judge here ordered the four held for up to 15 days while the police continue their investigation. The judge issued his order after the police registered a case against the four but listed no specific charges. Under Pakistani law, charges are filed only after a court hearing.

Three of the four were being held at an army base not far from the airport where the incident occurred. The fourth was said to be under guard at a hospital, where he was being treated for wounds.

All four are believed to have arrived in Pakistan on passports issued by the government of Bahrain, in the Persian Gulf.

Grandmother's Death

The death toll in the incident rose to 18 Sunday with the disclosure that an Indian woman, previously thought to have survived, had been killed. She was identified as Kuverben Patel, 80, the grandmother of Rajesh Kumar, who was bringing her and another relative from India to visit California relatives.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Bruce Ammerman identified the second slain American as Surendra Manubhal Patel, 50, of Fullerton, Calif. The two Patels were not known to be related.

Seventeen Americans were said to be among the wounded, and most of them have been evacuated to hospitals in West Germany.

Official sources in Washington said the United States had been prepared to use the Army's anti-terrorist Delta Force against the hijackers, who held 384 hostages on the ground at Karachi for 16 hours.

Zia's Willingness

Officials said the government of President Zia ul-Haq had indicated its willingness to allow the American anti-terrorist team into the country, although what action they might take had not been spelled out.

The Delta Force, made up of Special Forces personnel trained in anti-terrorist operations, is based at Ft. Bragg, N.C. The Defense Department routinely refuses to discuss its activities.

The New York Times quoted unidentified Administration officials as saying the Delta Force team had been dispatched but failed to arrive before the plane's generator ran out of fuel, dimming the cabin lights and apparently panicking the hijackers, who began shooting wildly at the hostages.

Southern California survivors of the Pan Am hijacking began arriving home. (Part II, Page 1.)

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