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5 Plead Innocent in '86 Pan Am Jet Hijacking That Killed 21

September 15, 1987|Associated Press

ADIYALA, Pakistan — Five handcuffed Arab defendants pleaded innocent today to charges of hijacking and murder in the 1986 airport seizure of a Pan Am jumbo jet in which 21 people were killed and nearly 200 wounded.

It was the first time the five--three Lebanese, a Syrian and a Libyan--appeared together before a special one-man tribunal set up inside Adiyala district prison near Islamabad.

All could hang if convicted.

Four of the five are accused of being the men, dressed as airport security guards, who stormed aboard Pan Am Flight 73 at Karachi with automatic weapons, pistols and grenades on a stop from Bombay, India, to New York on Sept. 5, 1986. The fifth is the accused mastermind of the hijacking.

The attackers held about 400 passengers and crew of the Boeing 747 for nearly 17 hours, demanding to fly to Cyprus to pick up some unspecified Palestinians jailed there on terrorism charges.

The three-man cockpit crew escaped early through an emergency hatch.

After the hijackers shot an Indian-American passenger early in the day, the piracy came to a bloody climax around 9:30 p.m. when an on-board generator ran out of fuel, plunging the cabin into darkness.

The gunmen, fearing an attack, sprayed the passengers with bullets. Pakistani commandos then stormed aboard.

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