The Iraqi who hijacked a Qatar Airways Airbus with 144 people on board and forced the Jordan-bound plane to land in Saudi Arabia said Friday he had sought political asylum in Qatar, reported AFP.
The Iraqi, named as Adel Fahd Jahid, "hijacked the plane because he refused to go back to Iraq where he risked prison," the Qatari news agency QNA reported.
"He feared being forced back to Iraq by the Jordanian authorities," QNA said, adding that the hijacker had requested the presence of a UN representative.
Interviewed by the Qatari satellite television channel Al-Jazeera, the hijacker said he had "sought political asylum in Qatar".
"I asked for a UN representative to be present and political asylum in Qatar, because if I go back to Iraq, I fear for my life," he said on his arrival back in Doha, said AFP.
The man had forced his way into the cockpit of the Qatar Airways flight 404 from Doha to Amman on Thursday 45 minutes after takeoff from the Qatari capital and, wielding a "big knife," ordered the pilot to divert to Hael.
The hijacker put up no resistance after the Airbus 300 landed at Hael airport, 700 kilometers north of the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
The remaining 133 passengers, all unharmed, finally arrived at their destination in Jordan early Friday more than 10 hours late, added AFP.
According to The Associated Press, the passengers included Britons, Jordanians, Palestinians, Iraqis, Indians and Malaysians.
At the airport arrival lounge in Amman, passengers had emotional reunions with relatives and friends, the AP said.
Some cried; others laughed, hugged or handed out flowers.
Saber Tarawneh, a Jordanian passenger who sat next to the hijacker in the economy cabin, described him as a short, thin man in his early 30s who "looked uncomfortable and worried" from the time the plane took off.
"He was simply agitated," Tarawneh said. "He was nervously shaking his legs while sitting down and often went to the toilet in the first half-hour after we left Doha."
Haifa Abu Ghazaleh, also a Jordanian passenger, told the AP that she saw the hijacker go into the toilet in his head-to-toe white Arab gown and come out in dark pants and a shirt.
"I then saw him heading toward the cockpit with something in his hand," she said.
According to the AP, Thursday's hijacking was the first of a Qatar Airways aircraft since the carrier was formed in 1994 - (Several Sources)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )