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Sunday, 15 October, 2000, 13:13 GMT 14:13 UK
Relatives' relief as hijack ends
heathrow
Distraught relatives are waiting to be reunited with their loved ones
Friends and relatives of passengers of the hijacked Saudi Arabian Airlines plane are waiting to be reunited after the incident ended peacefully.

The 105 passengers and crew, including 40 Britons, were released safely four hours after the London-bound plane was forced to land in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad at 1645GMT on Saturday.

The Iraqi government, which has endured sanctions by the British government since the Gulf War, promised that all passengers would be well treated, regardless of nationality.

We are absolutely pleased that it's ended so swiftly in this way

Philip Griffin, Saudi Arabian Airlines

But Foreign Secretary Robin Cook refused to thank the Iraqis for helping to end the crisis.

"I would not thank any government for carrying out its clear international obligation to stop a terrorist hijack," he said at a news conference in central London on Sunday.

Mr Cook added that he sympathised with the friends and relatives of those who have been on board the aircraft.

"I have felt deeply for the relatives of all those detained over the last day and night and they must have been through an enormously worrying time which I hope is now coming to an end," he said.

After spending the night in Baghdad, the passengers were expected to be flown back to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia before heading for London on Sunday.

The authorities may want to question them about the hijackers.

The armed men, believed to be four Saudis, had warned the pilot they were carrying dynamite and threatened to blow up the Boeing 777-200 aircraft.

But the incident ended peacefully and the hijackers were arrested by the Iraqi authorities.

Elation

Saudi Arabian Airlines' Heathrow manager, Philip Griffin, said the passengers were expected back in London late on Sunday evening.

"We are absolutely pleased that it's ended so swiftly in this way," he said.

"The feeling in the office was one of elation."
Passengers of the hijacked Saudi Arabian Airlines place
Passengers leave the aircraft in Baghdad

Flight 115 from Jeddah had been due to land at Heathrow Airport at 1740 BST on Saturday.

But friends and relatives expecting to welcome the passengers home were told the plane had been hijacked as it flew over Egypt.

Distraught families - some of them with young children carrying flowers - were offered counselling.

Mr Griffin said about 60 people were taken to a support suite.

But many left the airport, preferring to wait out the outcome of their anxious vigil at home with their families.

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