ON THIS DAY    5 September      Graphics version >>   BBC News >>
Search ON THIS DAY by date   
  Go back one day Go forward one day

Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
1986: Karachi hijack ends in bloodshed

The 16-hour siege on a Pan Am jet in Pakistan has come to a bloody end, with at least 17 people dead.

Four gunmen, who boarded the Bombay to New York flight at Karachi Airport disguised as security guards, opened fire on the 390 hostages at 2130 local time (1630 GMT).

Some passengers were able to escape the carnage down one of the plane's emergency chutes, but it is thought to have been at least 10 minutes before Pakistani commandos reached the jet.

The still unknown hijackers, two of whom are believed to be dead, had earlier demanded a new flight crew to take them to Cyprus to secure the release of "friends".


"I cannot guess how many people were killed or wounded"

Passenger David Jodice

The original crew escaped from the cockpit shortly after the gunmen boarded at 0500 (0000 GMT).

Most of the passengers on Pan Am 073 are Indian, but Americans, Italians, West Germans and Britons are also on the plane.

They were moved to the centre of the aircraft when the power began to fail and the jet was plunged into darkness.

Businessman Mohammed Amin said he heard one hijacker tell another: "The moment of the Last Jihad has arrived. If we are all killed we will all be martyrs."

They then counted "one, two, three" before they began shooting, he added.

US passenger David Jodice told reporters: "They were shouting at us in pitch darkness. We were totally panicked when they threw a hand grenade in among the passengers.

"I have seen a lot of blood - I cannot guess how many people were killed or wounded," he said.

The hijackers had already killed American passenger Rajesh Kumar, 29, and dumped his body out of the door when their demand for a new pilot was not met.

Two previously unknown groups - the Libyan Revolutionary Cells and the Jundallah (Soldiers of God) - have claimed the men were acting on their behalf.

Experts say it is unlikely Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, fearful of more American raids on his country, will want to be openly associated with the hijacking.

In Context
Twenty-two people died in the attack and over 150 were injured.

Contrary to initial reports, all the hijackers survived. They later admitted to being members of the Palestinian Abu Nidal Organisation.

Five men were convicted in Pakistan for their part in the attack in 1988. They were all sentenced to death, but this was later commuted to life imprisonment.

The Pakistani authorities released the leader of the hijackers, Zaid Hassan Abd Al-Latif Masud Al Safarini in September 2001, but he was quickly recaptured by the US.

He was tried in an American court and in 2004 was sentenced to a 160-year prison term. The other four men remain in jail in Pakistan.


Search ON THIS DAY by date   
  Go back one day Go forward one day

Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
^^ Back to top |