ROME — A runaway teen-ager flying home for Christmas hijacked a KLM jetliner with 96 other people aboard Wednesday but was captured without violence hours after he forced the plane to make an emergency landing here.
"Our experience has taught us that prudence is best," said Transport Minister Calogero Mannino amid nearly four hours of tense negotiations at Rome's Leonardo da Vinci Airport that led to the release of the 90 passengers and six crew members and the youth's arrest.
Italian police said the boy was unarmed. They identified him as 15-year-old Adalgiso Scioni, a Sardinian who had been visiting his Dutch maternal grandparents in the Netherlands.
Upset and confused in radio conversations with Italian authorities, the boy claimed to have secreted a bomb in his luggage that he could trigger with a switch on his wristwatch.
Repeatedly Changed Demands
He repeatedly changed his demands, first asking for $1 million, then to go to Kuwait, then Chad, and ultimately asking to be taken to New York, where he wanted a hotel reservation. By then, authorities were convinced that he represented no threat.
"He is mentally unbalanced," KLM Chairman Johan De Soet told reporters in Amsterdam, where the Milan-bound flight originated.
The youth, whose mother is Dutch, had run away from home in Sardinia last week after an argument with his parents, using his savings to fly to his grandparents' home in Holland, De Soet said.
The grandparents had taken him to Amsterdam airport Wednesday, and his parents were en route to the airport in Cagliari, Sardinia, to meet him when the hijacking occurred.
Humberto Improta, anti-terrorist chief of the Italian police, talked the youth into releasing the passengers and crew in two stages and then led him away.
Italian authorities and officials of the Dutch flag carrier in Holland said the hijacking occurred as KLM Flight 343, a Boeing 737, approached Milan on Wednesday night.
Access to Flight Deck
Claiming in a mixture of Italian, English and Dutch that he had a bomb, the youth ordered the jet diverted to Rome. It was not clear early today how he managed to gain access to the flight deck.
With the plane isolated within a cordon of security forces on Runway One at Leonardo da Vinci Airport, the negotiations began. After two hours, the youth agreed to release 60 passengers, most of them Italian.
The rest of the passengers and crew followed 90 minutes later. With them came the youth, apparently believing that he was going on another plane to New York. Instead, he was arrested.