Saudi Arabia Demands Extradition of Security Men who Hijacked Plane to Iraq
Saudi Arabia called Monday on Iraq to extradite two Saudi security officers who used a service revolver to hijack a plane to Baghdad.
"We demand the handing over of the two hijackers," who are being held by the Iraqi authorities," Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz said.
"We will not compromise over their extradition, he vowed during a press conference.
Riyadh would "have recourse to all the established procedures to obtain the extradition of the two hijackers," the prince said, starting with Interpol.
He cited an international convention outlawing hijacking and an anti-terrorism convention, which the prince said both Saudi Arabia and Iraq had signed along with other Arab countries two years ago.
"We hope the hijackers will be handed over to us so they can face justice," Prince Nayef said.
However, Iraq is resolutely hostile to Saudi Arabia and diplomatic relations were broken off during the Gulf War in 1991 after the invasion of Kuwait by President Saddam Hussein's forces.
Jordan played the intermediary between the two during the hijacking crisis, the prince said, but Saudi Arabia had no contact nor entered into no negotiations with Iraq, he stressed.
"There was no more than that," the prince said. King Abdullah II was in Riyadh at the weekend and Amman's embassy carried out the work.
Nayef did praise the "positive" behavior of the Iraqi authorities who quickly defused the crisis, but he added that had "nothing to do" with politics or a restoration of diplomatic relations.
The passengers of the Boeing 777 hijacked during a flight from Jeddah to London, who arrived overnight in Riyadh, left the Saudi capital before dawn Monday for England, almost 30 hours after their ordeal ended.
Prince Nayef and defense ministry officials had greeted the 90 passengers and 14 crew at the airport.
Iraqi Transport Minister Ahmed Murtada told reporters at Baghdad's Saddam International airport on Sunday that "The hijackers are in the hands of the competent authorities."
Prince Nayef said they were friends who "managed to smuggle a revolver aboard the plane which they used to hijack the aircraft."
He named them as Faisal Naji al-Balawi, 26, a sub-lieutenant in the security services at Jeddah airport, and Ayesh Ali al-Fridi, a sub-leiutenant borderguard in Najran, in the south of the kingdom.
The first used his position to avoid security checks to carry the revolver on board the Boeing 777, the minister explained.
"They are friends ... traveled often together on holiday to Britain, France, Egypt and Morocco," the prince said.
Al-Fridi had a reputation for "ill-discipline and bad behavior," the prince noted.
He ruled out any "political motive" for the hijacking and said they had no contact with political or foreign parties.
The pair surrendered without a fight after forcing the plane to land late Saturday at Saddam International Airport, leaving all aboard to walk free unharmed.
But they then told journalists they still had a bomb on the plane, that the affair was not over and they still wanted to "negotiate".
Prince Nayef said the delay in leaving Baghdad had been due to security searches for any explosives.
The hijackers called for an inquiry into human rights abuses in Riyadh, slammed the Riyadh regime as being under US hegemony, and, according to some reports, requested political asylum.
One of the men said their aim was "to demand justice and equality in Saudi Arabia" and called for an inquiry into alleged corruption and human rights abuses in the kingdom.
They also denounced "the presence of the US and British armies" in Saudi Arabia, echoing a common theme of anti-Riyadh hostility in Baghdad.
The airline said the passengers comprised 40 Britons, 15 Saudis, 15 Pakistanis, four Yemenis, four South Africans, two Kenyans, one American, one French national, one Spaniard, one Swiss, one Swede, one Nigerian, one Indian, one Omani, one Palestinian and a Lebanese – RIYADH (AFP)
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