Saudi Forces Storm Russian Plane, Arrest Hijackers, Three Killed
Saudi commandos stormed on Friday the hijacked Russian plane which landed Thursday in the Medina airport, said TV reports, adding that the three hijackers were arrested and the 100 hostages freed.
Saudi officials confirmed a report that three passengers were killed in the operation, while two of the hijackers were injured.
A journalist had told Al Jazeera satellite channel over phone that one of the hijackers was who was seriously injured, died in addition to a Turkish passenger and a stewardess.
The operation kicked off after the plane was refueled “for a long journey,” said the reports.
Two of the hijackers were identified in Russia, Sufian Arsaiv and his son. The father is a brother to former Chechen minister Aslan Arsaiv.
Saudi and Russian officials were negotiating handing the hijackers over to Moscow, the journalist told Al Jazeera.
The hijackers have demanded that Russia end its war against Chechnya as a condition for freeing about the passengers and crewmembers after about 50 were released or escaped from the plane in the early hours of the day.
In a Chechen presidential statement, according to Al Jazeera satellite channel, the hijackers were negotiating their demands. The station added that the hijackers asked Saudi authorities to refuel the plane, but they did not say where the next destination was.
Twenty-five Russians, 15 Turks and two people from the Maldives were among the hostages released early Friday by three armed Chechens who hijacked a Russian airliner to Medina in Saudi Arabia, the SPA news agency said, cited by AFP.
"Among those freed were 25 Russian passengers, 15 Turks and two people from the Maldives," SPA quoted an airport spokesman as saying.
"Negotiators were in talks with the hijackers in an attempt to put an end to the hijacking," SPA said.
Saudi and Russian officials had said the hijackers had freed or allowed to escape around 50 of the 162 passengers and 12 crew aboard after landing at the Muslim holy city of Medina following the hijack of the flight from Istanbul to Moscow on Thursday.
The plane was hijacked shortly after it took off from Turkey’s Ataturk airport in Istanbul Thursday afternoon – Albawaba.com