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The BBC's Joe Campbell
"It's been very sombre"
 real 56k

Saturday, 14 October, 2000, 19:18 GMT 20:18 UK
Hijack relatives leave Heathrow
Many of the relatives appear shocked and upset
Friends and relatives of passengers aboard the hijacked Saudi Arabian Airlines Flight 115 have left Heathrow Airport after receiving counselling.

The plane had been due to land at the airport at 1740 BST on Saturday.

Government sources have said less than half the passengers were British

Prime Minister Tony Blair has been fully briefed on the hijack and is being kept up to date with developments, said a statement from Downing Street.

Many of the relatives - some of them with young children carrying flowers - appeared shocked and upset.

Philip Griffin
Saudi Arabia Airlines

Relatives are very anxious. The mood is very sombre

Speaking at Heathrow, the station manager of Saudi Arabia Airlines, Philip Griffin, said about 60 friends and relatives had been taken to the support suite to be counselled.

He said: "Relatives are very anxious. The mood is very sombre."

"We've been getting full co-operation from all the authorities, from the police and the caring authorities, the local councils and also the British Airports Authority," he added.

Ushered away

Speaking at the airport the BBC's Joe Campbell said: "There are some people who look as though they are quite obviously British citizens."

One of the major defence contractors had sent someone to meet a family from Newport, Gwent, who had come to meet a relative travelling on the flight, said Campbell.

"They were met as they came to the information desk, and ushered away," he said.

Return flight

About 100 passengers who had been scheduled to fly to Jeddah at 2045 BST on the hijacked plane's return flight were also being offered hotel accommodation.

About 70 were members of a religious group, Raja, planning to attend a Muslim festival.

Abdul Khan, 62, from Birmingham, said the airline was trying to arrange another flight for 1230 BST on Sunday.

A spokesman for the Iraqi Culture and Information Ministry has said :"We would like to reassure the families of the passengers that the Iraqi authorities will look after them and tend to their needs as much as possible.

"We will make all the comforts of traditional Arab hospitality available to them if the hijackers allow it, until their plane returns home."

Friends and relatives can contact a telephone helpline on 0845 604 0171.

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