08/09/1998 13:03:10 Russian security forces hunt "ghost hijackers"
(Updates with 70 passengers still on plane, other details)
MOSCOW, Aug 9 (Reuters) - Russian security forces kept 70
passengers aboard a plane at a Moscow's Domodedovo airport on
Sunday, believing hijackers who earlier threatened to blow it up
could be still among them.
Unidentified hijackers had demanded in a note that the
three-engined TU-154 jet, flying from the Siberian city of
Ust-Ilimsk with 97 people aboard, prepare to fly to another
destination and had asked for $100,000.
Security officials said initially that all passengers had
left the plane at Domodedovo airport after the hijack attempt,
but it emerged an hour later that at least 70 remained on board.
Airport security chief Alexander Sopov told Interfax news
agency that only women and children had left the aircraft.
Reporters were kept away from the plane, parked on a remote
lot of the huge airfield. Armoured cars which had earlier rushed
to the airport later left.
Sopov was shown on NTV commercial television saying the
security forces did not know how many hijackers were on board,
if any, and said security forces had not been in direct contact
"As of now we do not know who of the passengers is the
terrorist," he said.
"All negotiations were with the pilot."
Sopov said that a stewardess had found a letter in the aisle
during the flight which demanded that the equivalent of $100,000
in roubles, packed into five envelopes, be placed in the plane's
The letter also said that the plane should stay at least
three hours at Domodedovo airport and that all passengers be
allowed to leave without any checks.
"It was a clever way to let them (the hijackers) pick up
money and go," he said.
Sopov made clear that passengers were kept in the plane for
RIA news agency quoted a spokesman for Istline airline, the
owner of the plane, as saying that all passengers had been taken
to the airport building for police checks aimed at finding
whether any of them was the actual troublemaker.