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FBI releases age-progressed photos of hijackers of Neerja Bhanot’s Pan Am flight

Four alleged hijackers were charged with the 1986 hijack of Pan Am Flight 73 that killed 20 people, including Indian flight attendant Neerja Bhanot.

world Updated: Jan 12, 2018 22:19 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Washington
Pan Am hijackers,Pan Am Flight 73,1986 hijack
Age-processed photos of the four accused of hijacking the 1986 hijack of Pan Am Flight 73. From left: Jamal Saeed Abdul Rahim, Muhammad Ahmed al-Munawar, Muhammad Abdullah Khalil Hussain ar- Rahayyal and Wadoud Muhammad Hafiz al-Turki. (@FBIWFO/Twitter)

The FBI on Thursday released “age-progressed” photographs of four men involved in the 1986 hijack of Pan Am Flight 73 in Karachi, which had resulted in the death of 20 people, including Indian flight attendant Neerja Bhanot.

The hijackers — Wadoud Muhammad Hafiz al-Turki, Jamal Saeed Abdul Rahim, Muhammad Abdullah Khalil Hussain ar-Rahayyal, and Muhammad Ahmed al-Munawar — were all members of the Palestinian Abu Nidal terrorist outfit.

“No matter how much time has passed, we owe it to the victims and their families to never give up on them,” an unidentified case agent from the bureau’s Washington office said in a statement.

The lead agent in the case, also unidentified in the announcement, said images of the suspects obtained by the FBI in the year 2000 were age-progressed by the FBI laboratory. “We’re hoping that with the age-progression photos next to the original photos maybe that will jar some memories or maybe someone has seen these guys walking around,” he said.

There is a $5 million reward for information leading to their arrest.

Pakistani authorities had arrested all four terrorists involved in the hijack from the scene, later nabbing a fifth person — Zayd Hassan Abd al-Latif Safarini, their apparent leader. The four hijackers were tried and convicted, and were given the death sentence, later commuted to life in prison.

Safarini was handed over to the US in 2001. He accepted a plea deal in 2003 and was sentenced in 2005 to 160 years in prison.

“In January 2008,” the justice department had said, “the (remaining) four hijackers … were reportedly released from Pakistani custody”. They were never to be seen again.

The Mumbai-Frankfurt-New York flight, carrying 379 passengers and crew, was captured by the terrorists during a stop-over in Karachi on September 5, 1986. Alerted by a cabin attendant, the flight crew escaped, preventing the plane from taking off.

The hijackers demanded pilots be sent to fly the plane to Cyprus, and shot an Indian American man in the doorway to press their point, and rolled the body off on the tarmac.

The hijacking lasted 17 hours during which Bhanot, the 23=year-old flight attendant, suffered a bullet wound that killed her hours later at a hospital. Her bravery in saving lives of passengers won her the Ashok Chakra award and her story was told in the 2016 film Neerja.

First Published: Jan 12, 2018 07:51 IST