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1988: Hijackers free 25 hostages

Hijackers who took control of a Kuwait Airways jumbo jet have released 24 women passengers and one man with a heart condition.

They were freed after negotiations between the prime minister of Iran, where the plane landed earlier today, and the hijackers - believed to be six or seven Arab men.

They hijacked Kuwait Airways Flight 422 as it travelled from Bangkok in Thailand to Kuwait with 111 passengers and crew aboard and forced the pilot to land in Mashhad, Iran.

Since then the men, armed with hand grenades and guns, have demanded the release of 17 Shiite Muslims guerrillas held in Kuwait.

They have threatened to destroy the plane if anyone approaches it and also to kill three members of the Kuwaiti royal family who are on board if their demands are not met.

Kuwait is said to be sending a delegation to Iran to negotiate.

'Redressing our rights'

The released male passenger, Rafiq Mustafa Issa from Jordan, told Iranian officials the men seized control of the jet about three hours into the flight.

Mr Issa said the hijackers tied up the passengers but otherwise treated them well.

"They told us: 'Don't worry, we are after redressing our rights denied by the Kuwaiti government'," Mr Issa said.

An almost identical hijacking happened four years ago when another Kuwaiti airliner was forced to land in Iran by men seeking the release of the same 17 terrorists named today.

Two American passengers were shot dead before Iranian security forces stormed the plane after six days and freed the remaining hostages.

America and Kuwait suspected the Iranians had been working with the hijackers.

Those suspicions were reinforced by Iran's refusal to extradite them and their subsequent disappearance.

In Context
The hijack lasted 16 days after Kuwait refused to release the 17 terrorists as demanded.

The situation was also complicated by Kuwait's support for Iraq in the ongoing Iran-Iraq war and the fact most of the 17 terrorists held by Kuwait were Iranians.

Nevertheless, hopes of an early end to the hijack were raised when 32 more hostages were released on 6 April.

But three days later the hijackers forced the Iranian authorities to refuel the jet and flew to Cyprus.

During a four day stopover in Larnaca they released one passenger but killed two others to force the authorities to give them more fuel.

On 13 April the hijackers flew to Algeria where a week later they finally freed their remaining 32 hostages and surrendered.

A few days later it was reported the men - widely believed to have links to Islamic groups holding about 25 Westerners hostage in Beirut - had been flown to Lebanon.

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