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Frenchman Killed by Pro-Iranian Hijacker : Lebanese, Reportedly a Hezbollah Member, Slays Passenger on African Jetliner in Geneva

July 25, 1987|WILLIAM TUOHY | Times Staff Writer

GENEVA — A Lebanese gunman Friday hijacked a jumbo jet with 163 aboard over Italy and killed a French passenger in cold blood during a refueling stop here before being overpowered by the plane's crew.

In the struggle, an airline steward who first jumped the terrorist was shot in the stomach and seriously wounded. At least 31 of the 148 passengers suffered fractures, twisted ankles and cuts and bruises as they used the plane's emergency chutes to escape the Air Afrique DC-10.

The hijacker was carrying an International Red Cross card that identified him as Hussein Ali Mohammed Hariri, 21, but relatives in Lebanon identified him slightly differently--using the name Hussein Ali Mahmoud Hariri. They said he is a member of the radical Shia Muslim group Hezbollah (Party of God), a pro-Iranian faction that has links with groups holding Americans and other Westerners hostage in Lebanon.

Swiss official Achille Casanova said the hijacker had demanded the release of two Lebanese brothers, Mohammed Ali Hamadi and Abbas Ali Hamadi, from West German jails where they are being held in connection with the hijacking of a Trans World Airlines jet in June, 1985, and the murder of U.S. Navy diver Robert D. Stethem.

Air Afrique Flight

The Paris-bound Air Afrique flight had originated in Brazzaville, capital of the Congo Republic. Authorities said Hariri, apparently operating alone, boarded the plane at its first stop, in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic. After a stop in Rome, he pulled a gun on the flight crew and ordered the pilot to head for Beirut. Capt. Edouard Artizzu asked instead to refuel in Geneva and landed here at 8:08 a.m.

"I heard two shots and shouts," Artizzu said, "and a man brandishing a pistol ran into the cockpit. He was very excited and said he had a score to settle with France."

France and Iran are locked in a struggle and broke off diplomatic relations last Friday. Lebanese supporters of the Islamic regime in Iran have demonstrated several times in the past week, vowing revenge on France.

Artizzu also said the hijacker mentioned several times that he wanted to gain the release of a prisoner, presumably one of the Hamadis, in West Germany.

Landing in Geneva

After it landed at Geneva's Cointrin airport, Swiss authorities placed the plane near a construction site at the terminal, rather than isolating it, in order to give police and paramilitary security units cover as they approached the aircraft.

The authorities allowed the refueling to begin in order to stall for time, they said, as their security forces were placed in position to storm the aircraft.

Meanwhile, Swiss negotiators, aided by Nabil Ramlawi, head of the local office of the Palestine Liberation Organization, tried to talk Hariri into surrendering.

However, according to Artizzu, the gunman became angry.

"He went out into the cabin and grabbed someone at random," said crew member Anatase Tognisso. "Then he collected passports, separated the French, and chose someone."

His victim was a French passenger, Xavier Guillaume Beaulieu, a 28-year-old wine merchant working in Pointe Noire in the Congo. Harari had cleared the first class cabin previously and now he took Beaulieu in there.

"He put a blanket over the man's head, placed his pistol against the blanket and fired," Tognisso said.

Died in Ambulance

Beaulieu was apparently shot in the mouth. He died in an ambulance on the way to a hospital. Friends later said that Beaulieu was on his way to Paris for treatment of hepatitis.

"What is particularly awful is that he was so ill and weak," said a friend interviewed on French radio.

Geneva Police Chief Bernard Siegler said the Frenchman had been "cruelly killed." Geneva Prosecutor Bernard Corboz told reporters that the hijacker would face trial in Switzerland on murder and hostage-taking charges. He was taken to the maximum-security wing of Champ-Dollon prison outside Geneva.

Passengers said that after the gunman shot Beaulieu, he demanded that the plane take off for Beirut. When the crew refused, the gunman called the name of two other French passengers whose passports he held.

Escaped Down Chutes

Meanwhile, passengers peering through the aircraft's windows saw crew members removing the wounded Beaulieu from the plane and decided to try to escape, said Walt Cholewa, a Canadian teacher who was returning to Toronto from a vacation in Brazzaville.

"I think people started to worry," he said. "I think there was panic."

With that, many of the 148 passengers, mainly French and African nationals, headed for the rear of the aircraft and forced open the doors, automatically releasing the orange emergency chutes, and slid their way to safety.

They scampered across the flight apron away from the plane.

Taking advantage of the confusion, a steward jumped Hariri and other members of the 15-person crew then helped in overpowering him. The steward, who was not identified, was shot in the stomach. He was reported to be in critical condition in Geneva Cantonal Hospital.

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