Hijacked Passengers : Iraq is Treated Us Like Royalty
The passengers of a Saudi jet hijacked and diverted to Baghdad over the weekend were full of praise Monday for Iraqi authorities, unlike the British government.
Foreign Secretary Robin Cook pointedly refused to thank Baghdad after the hostage crisis came to an end late Saturday, saying it was their "obligation" to end terrorist acts.
"I would not thank any government for carrying out its clear international obligation to stop a terrorist hijack," he told a news conference Sunday.
But as the passengers flew Monday into London, their original destination, one said they had been "treated like royalty" in Baghdad.
"There was no reason for us to worry while we were in Iraq, because of the way we were treated," said Neil Broomfield, of Portsmouth, southern England.
"They basically treated us like royalty -- no faults at all."
Ghulam Hussein, from High Wycombe, north of London, said: "We were treated very well and have nothing but praise for the Iraqis."
The same sentiment was expressed by Ghulam Qureshi, who had been on the jet with his wife after a pilgrimage.
"The Iraqis are very good people, they looked after us very well."
The Boeing 777, with 90 passengers and 14 crew on board, was hijacked after taking off Saturday from Jeddah en route to London.
The drama came to a peaceful end when the hijackers gave themselves up late Saturday in Baghdad.
Early Monday, 94 of the freed hostages landed at London's Heathrow airport to be reunited with relatives.
There was some suspicion, however.
Omer Moghraby spoke of the "convenient" coincidence that the hijacked plane arrived in Baghdad on the first day of a national tourism week.
The medical student from London said the freed hostages were given a grand welcome and leaflets about tourist sites in the country.
"At the airport, we were met by the transport minister and his entourage," he said.
"The minister said he wanted to welcome us to his country, and they wanted to do absolutely everything they could to make our stay comfortable."
They were taken to a five-star hotel and led into a banqueting room with a large banner up saying "Iraqi Tourism Week," together with a giant picture of Saddam Hussein on skis and wearing a ski mask.
Moghraby said they were well fed and allowed to make as many international calls as they wanted.
"I do not know if the whole thing was a set-up, but it did all seem rather convenient," he went on. "It didn't feel like the hijack was planned, but they were obviously very happy to see us and made full use of our being there" -- LONDON (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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