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The BBC's Peter Biles
"There will be intense relief tonight"
 real 56k

BBC Middle East correspondent Frank Gardner
"For sanction-bound Iraq, this is a diplomatic triumph"
 real 28k

Saturday, 14 October, 2000, 20:31 GMT
Saudi hijack passengers freed

The passengers and crew of a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight seized by armed men have been freed, the airline says.

The plane, hijacked en route from Jeddah to London, earlier landed in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

All the hijackers have been taken away by the Iraqi authorities.

"It has ended peacefully. The hijackers were arrested and there will be investigations," an official told reporters at Saddam International Airport.

They had warned the pilot they were carrying dynamite and had threatened to blow up the Boeing 777-200 with its 90 passengers and up to 17 crew.

Iraqi television said there were five hijackers - an Ethiopian and four Saudis - and that they were seeking political asylum.


heathrow
Worried relatives wait for news at London's Heathrow airport

The passengers included 40 Britons and one American, as well as 15 Saudis, 15 Pakistanis, four South Africans, four Yemenis and two Kenyans.

One report said that a member of the Saudi royal family was among the passengers.

Saudi Arabia and Iraq broke off relations 10 years ago when Iraq invaded Kuwait.

Since then, Iraq has angrily attacked Saudi Arabia's rulers for hosting western warplanes that patrol daily over Iraq.

First alert

The first alert of the hijack came after the pilot of flight SV115 contacted Egyptian civil aviation officials at 1455 local time (1255 GMT).

The airliner initially flew into Syrian airspace and circled the capital Damascus. Some reports said it had landed, but it later emerged that the landing had been aborted at the last moment on the orders of the hijacker.

The plane landed at Baghdad at 1945 local time (1645 GMT).

There are not normally many flight arrivals there because of UN sanctions against Iraq.

Relatives

Worried relatives and friends of those on board the plane gathered at London Heathrow's Terminal 3 where the flight had been expected to touch down at 1740 local time (1640GMT).

The helpline number is 0845 6040171

It is the second hijacking in the Gulf in a month.

On 14 September, an Iraqi man hijacked a Qatar Airways plane at knifepoint and ordered it flown to Saudi Arabia.

The 144 passengers and the crew escaped unharmed when the man surrendered to Saudi authorities at the city of Hael.

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See also:

13 Oct 00 | Africa
US closes African embassies
14 Sep 00 | Middle East
Hijack drama ends safely
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