A Syrian car mechanic concealed in a cassette player a gun and a hand grenade he wanted to use in a foiled bid to commandeer a Royal Jordanian plane to Europe, Jordan's transport minister said Monday.
But hijacker, Mahmoud Rizk Deeb, was shot dead Wednesday by airplane security guards before he could force his way into the cockpit to order the pilot to re-route the Amman-Damascus flight to Germany, where he hoped to seek asylum.
Fifteen people, including several Arab-Americans, were slightly injured when he hand grenade he was holding fell from his hand, and it exploded in the aisle of the airplane, where Deeb's son, 3, and daughter, 5, and a brother were also passengers.
Deeb defied airport security and "used (one of) his children to take on board the cassette player/recorder in which he had concealed a hand grenade made in an East European country and a revolver as if it were part of the equipment," Mohammed Kalaldeh said in a statement.
Kalaldeh did not say how Deeb managed to conceal the weapons inside the cassette player nor did he provide further details except to describe the machine as "big," implying that it was a portable "ghetto-blaster" type player.
Al-Arab Al-Yawm newspaper reported Monday that Deeb gave the machine to his daughter to take it on board by hand but was stopped by security officials at Queen Alia Airport.
Nevertheless, Deeb convinced them that it was fragile and they let the child carry it on to the plane, the newspaper said.
According to the official probe, Deeb did not inform his brother of his plans to hijack the plane, but had tried in vain in the past to obtain a new entry visa to Germany where he had once lived and worked as a car mechanic.
Ten minutes into the short flight to Damascus he left his seat and tried to force his way into the cockpit, refusing to listen to one of the security guards on board who sought for three minutes to dissuade him.
Deeb, who was once convicted and jailed for a misdemeanor in Syria, then began shooting indiscriminately, prompting another security guard behind him to return fire, hitting him in the back and killing him.
As he fell dead the hand grenade rolled into the aisle and exploded, making a hole in the floor of the plane that damaged cables necessary to the stability of the aircraft.
But pilot Lotfi Barakat was able to avert a disaster and turned the plane around and landed it safely in Amman less than one hour after the start of the ordeal.
On Sunday King Abdullah decorated Barakat and co-pilot Tamer Auni for bringing the plane and passengers back safely to Amman.
Abdullah also gave medals to two officers and one non-commissioned officer who managed to subdue the hijacker - AMMAN (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )