A Somali jetliner carrying 130 people was hijacked Saturday by three armed Somali soldiers who beat the pilot and wounded a crew member in a midair shootout, Ethiopian officials said.
After arriving at the airport here, the hijackers released 22 people, the Ethiopian press agency and Western diplomats said. Ethiopian officials said the hijackers threatened to blow up the plane unless Somali authorities released a number of political prisoners and canceled the execution of seven Somali youths who were convicted of anti-Government activities. The execution was scheduled for today.
Ethiopian officials said the hijackers, who seized the Boeing 707 on a flight from Mogadishu, the Somali capital, to Jidda, Saudi Arabia, had told them that they planned to blow up the plane at midnight Saturday.
That deadline passed and the hijackers threatened early this morning to blow up the plane by noon if their demands were not met by then. One American on Board
According to a senior Western diplomat, one American, whose identity was not known, was among the 118 passengers and 12 crew members on the plane when it was seized.
(The Ethiopian press agency said two Italians, two Southern Yemen nationals, one Yemen national, one Egyptian diplomat and one United Nations staff member were also among the passengers, The Associated Press reported.)
(The official Mogadishu radio broadcast a statement early today saying that the Somali Government had discussed the issue with ”various embassies about this action of banditry and terrorism against the civilian passengers, since this terrorist action is in breach of international agreements covering civilians,” The Associated Press said. It added that the statement did not say what the Somali Government would do about the hijackers’ demands.)
Pro-Western Somalia and pro-Soviet Ethiopia fought a war in 1977 over the disputed Ogaden region and relations between the two nations remain strained. Relief Pilots Hear Messages
Pilots of Britain’s Royal Air Force who were flying relief missions to Ethiopian famine victims learned of the hijacking Saturday morning when they picked up radio messages from the Somali plane.
The Britons said they heard the pilot identify the hijackers as members of a Somali political resistance group.
But the official Ethiopian press agency said the hijackers were three heavily armed Somali Army officers who had demanded that the execution of the seven youths in Somalia be called off and that international guarantees be given for the youths’ safety.
The agency said the hijackers were also demanding that a number of political prisoners in Somalia be released and sent to neighboring Djibouti, and that their arrival there be confirmed.
According to a British Broadcasting Corporation report, the hijackers freed 15 women and 4 children Saturday. Also freed, the BBC said, were three crew members – the wounded Somali crew member, who was assumed to have been a security guard, the injured captain, and the first officer, who was reported to have become ill.
Food and other provisions were delivered to the passengers still on board Saturday.
The Somali plane landed at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa after being refused permission to land in Aden, in Southern Yemen, the official Saudi press agency said.
Ethiopian officials negotiated with the hijackers throughout most of Saturday and early today. Late Saturday evening, spotlights illuminated the Somali aircraft, which was parked just off the main runway and was being guarded by armored vehicles.
A delegation of eight United States Congressmen arrived at the airport here Saturday night as scheduled on a trip to assess famine relief efforts in various parts of the country.