By Shady Janzeir
The Syrian hijacker who was killed by security officials during his attempt to commandeer a Royal Jordanian plane while en route to Damascus late Wednesday was acting alone, according to Jordan’s information minister, Taleb Rifai. He said that investigations revealed that the hijacker had no political motives, or affiliation to any political organization.
Talking to reporters at the King Hussein Medical Center (KHMC) in the early hours of Thursday, Rifai’ said that Mahmoud Rizk Deeb was shot dead when he tried to force his way into the cockpit of a Royal Jordanian plane carrying 84 passengers.
The minister said Deeb, a mechanic who used to reside in Germany, had entered Jordan on Tuesday. Deeb was accompanied on the flight by his brother, daughter and son, who were not aware of his plan.
Rifai’s statement denied initial reports of four hijackers and an exchange of fire between them and the security officials on board the aircraft.
The minister added that the hijacker had an old revolver and a hand grenade with which he tried to force his way into the cockpit but was prevented by two security guards. “The hijacker threw the grenade at the passengers, and the security guards had to shoot him,” Rifai said.
However, AFP quoted an official saying that the attacker fell onto the floor of the plane which caused the grenade to roll out of his hand and down across the aisle, between first and economy class.
The grenade exploded injuring 15 passengers, most of them moderately with shrapnel. The minister said two of the wounded underwent surgery, while the others are expected to leave the hospital Thursday.
The captain of the airplane was able to return to Queen Alia Airport, where he landed safely, said the minister.
Rifai said that according to information obtained from the assailant’s brother, Deeb came to Amman to renew his visa to Germany, but he was denied that.
“It seems that he tried to go back to Germany because he did not want to return to Syria,” where he had been jailed on criminal charges, the information minister said.
He said Deeb tried to hijack the plane, commandeer it to Germany where he would seek asylum.
According to Rifai, the AirBus carrier suffered limited damage adding that although the security on the plane did a “very good job” getting the situation under control “in a couple of minutes,” an investigation will be conducted to find out how the hijacker was able to sneak the bomb and pistol into the plane.
Royal Jordanian President Nader Dhahabi told AFP that the explosion "opened a hole in the floor of the plane but luckily the shock was absorbed by the cargo that lay beneath the aisle."
"We averted a disaster. We could have lost the plane because the explosion destroyed a lot of cables that control the stabilizer, making it very difficult for the pilot to land the plane," Dhahabi said.
Dhahabi praised the efforts of pilot Lutfi Barakat and co-pilot Tamer Awni who were able to turn the plane around and fly it back to base where it landed less than an hour after the start of the ordeal.
Jordan's King Abdullah and top government officials checked on the injured passengers receiving care on Thursday morning at the KHMC – Albawaba.com
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)