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Four Palestinian hijackers freed

January 04, 2008

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RAWALPINDI, Jan 3: The government on Thursday released four Palestinians who had been convicted of hijacking a Pan Am aircraft in Karachi in 1986.

Mohammad Abdullah, Daud Mohammad Hafiz, Mohammad Ahmed and Jamal Saad were freed after completing their jail terms and deported to the Palestinian territories.

The men were handed over to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Thursday morning for extradition.

AP adds: The alleged leader of the group, Zayd Hassan Abd Al Latif Masud Al Safarini, was released in Pakistan in 2001 under an amnesty, but was arrested a day later by FBI agents in Bangkok on his way to Jordan.

In 2003, a US court sentenced Safarini to three consecutive life terms plus 25 years for his role in the hijacking.

The court recommended Safarini serve his sentence at the ADX Florence, a maximum security facility in the US state of Colorado, but it was not immediately clear if he is currently incarcerated there.

The five Palestinians hijacked the Pan Am Boeing 747 as it sat at Karachi airport waiting to fly to Frankfurt en route to New York. They were demanding the release of 1,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israel and Cyprus.

Later the same day, Pakistani commandos stormed the plane and the hijackers began shooting and throwing hand grenades at the passengers and crew they had herded into one area of the plane, according to court papers presented at the US trial of Safarini.In all, 22 people were killed and more than 100 wounded. The five men were arrested.

At a 1988 trial in Pakistan, the Palestinians admitted carrying out the hijacking, but blamed Pakistani troops for the passengers’ deaths. All five were given death sentences that were commuted to life in prison, which means serving 14 years in Pakistan.