08/09/1998 19:32:28 Mystery note sparks hijack airport alert in Russia
(Updates with police inquiry, wraps up)
By Oleg Shchedrov
MOSCOW, Aug 9 (Reuters) - The search was still on
late Sunday for would-be highjackers who sparked a
security alert when they threatened to blow up a
Moscow-bound jet unless they were given $100,000.
But after a day of questioning of all 97
passengers on the domestic East Line airline flight
from the city of Ust-Ilimsk, the culprits hadn't been
A message calling for the money to be divided into
five envelopes and left in the jet's toilet led the
flight attendent who found it to raise the alarm,
security officials said.
In the note, the hijackers demanded the jet be
left unattended at Moscow's Domodedovo airport for at
least three hours and that passengers be allowed to
leave unchecked. They also wanted a flight to an
Anti-terrorist forces, including armoured
personnel carriers, rushed to the scene after the
alarm was sounded at 10:50 a.m. (0600 GMT) Sunday
A spokesman for the Federal Security Service told
Reuters one of its officers tried to begin
negotiations with the hijackers -- but there was
no-one to talk to. No bomb was found on the plane.
"It was a clever way to let them pick up money and
go," airport security chief Alexander Sopov said.
The head of Moscow regional branch of the Federal
Security Service, General Alexander Tsarenko, told a
news conference that police were searching through
passengers' luggage and taking samples of their
handwriting to compare it with the letter.
By late Sunday, most of the passengers were
allowed to leave but several people who police thought
might have been involved in the incident were being
held for extra questioning.
"The way the whole thing had been arranged
indicates that it was rather an act of hooliganism in
its most dangerous form," Kuznetsov.