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Hijack Attempt Thwarted on Jordanian Plane

Mideast: The gunman is slain after 15 passengers are injured by a grenade, authorities say. His motive remains unclear.

July 06, 2000|From Associated Press

AMMAN, Jordan — A gunman attempted to hijack a Syrian-bound jetliner late Wednesday and divert it to Germany, exploding a grenade that wounded 15 passengers before security guards killed him, authorities said.

The Royal Jordanian Airbus carrying 96 people, including a crew of 12, returned safely to Amman, said Capt. Jihad Irsheid, director general of Jordan's Civil Aviation Department.

Initial reports said two accomplices were arrested. But a Cabinet minister said later that three Syrians had been questioned and cleared by security officials.

The hijacker threw a grenade as security officials aboard tried to prevent him from entering the cockpit, Irsheid said. Security officers, who routinely staff the airline's flights, then opened fire and shot him to death.

Two of the wounded passengers were in stable condition following surgery at a hospital in Amman, the capital, the official Petra news agency said. The other 13 had minor injuries and were treated and released. Airport officials said the passengers were mostly from the Mideast but that an undetermined number were from the United States.

Information Minister Taleb Rifai identified the hijacker as Mahmoud Rizq Deeb of Tartus, Syria. He said Deeb was armed with a handgun as well as the grenade and had arrived in Jordan from Syria on Tuesday.

It was not immediately clear why Deeb--who was traveling with his two children and brother--wanted to take the plane to Germany.

"It was an individual attempt which had no . . . political motives," Rifai said.

He said Deeb had once lived in Germany, where he worked as a mechanic.

It was not clear how Deeb had managed to get the weapons through security checkpoints at the airport. Security was beefed up in the area following the hijack attempt.

Police carrying machine guns were deployed on streets leading to the airport, where cars and people were being searched.

Royal Jordanian Airlines is state-run, but the government plans to privatize it.

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