Hijacked Russian jetliner lands in Norway



HULLENSAKER, Norway (AP)—Grenade-wielding hijackers, believed to be Iranians, forced a Russian passenger jet to fly to Norway, then surrendered Thursday after authorities promised to consider their demand for political asylum.

All passengers and crew were released unharmed, said government spokeswoman Kjersti Skjaerven. Justice Minister Grete Faremo told a newconference in Oslo that 58 people in all were aboard the jetliner.

The twin-engine Tupolev-134 was seized over southern Russia on Wednesday, outward bound from Azerbaijan. It stopped in Kiev, Ukraine to refuel, then landed at Gardermoen charter airport at Ullensaker, 25 miles north of Oslo.

After hours of negotiations, four air pirates descended the steps of the Aeroflot jet smiling, with their hands in the air and jackets over their heads, government spokesman Gunnar Angeltveit reported.

The jet had sat for hours in the dark, surrounded by ambulances, fire engines, and armored vehicles. About 300 heavily armed military and police troops were deployed at the airport.

The Justice Minister said there were three hijackers and ‘‘one presumed accomplice whose role in the hijacking is still not known.’‘

Three of the men sought asylum, but the fourth did not, Regional Police Chief Knut Austad reported.

Another government official at the airport, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he saw all four with grenades taped to their bodies. Police said dogs were sent aboard the plane, parked near a forest, to search for explosives.

The pilot, Capt. Mikhail Osavin, said the hijackers had threatened the crew with hand grenades and explosives, said a Russian security spokesman, Alexei Zakharov.

Ukrainian and Azerbaijani officials said the hijackers were Iranians, linked to the radical Shiite Muslim Hezbollah militia of Lebanon, but Norwegian officials refused to say where the hijackers were from.

An Aeroflot spokesman at the airport, speaking on condition of anonymity, said two of the hijackers were Iranian brothers.

Norway was the site of the breakthrough peace talks between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Radical Islamic groups in the Middle East, including Hezbollah, have denounced the agreement and have vowed to disrupt any peace efforts.

But Justice Minister Faremo said there was nothing to indicate that the hijacking was linked to the Middle East peace process.

Spokesmen at the airport also said that that negotiations were conducted in English and Russian, with the help of Russian Embassy officials at the scene.

During more than four hours of negotiations, the hijackers demanded a guarantee of political asylum before releasing their hostages, government spokeswoman Ellen Hov said.

‘‘They got the reply that their application would be handled in the normal way and that we could not guarantee it,’‘ Chief Austad said. ‘‘They came back and said yes.’‘

During the stand-off, the hijackers let 12 passengers leave, government spokesman Gunnar Angeltveit said in the capital, Oslo. All but one were women and children.

The jet had been en route from the Azerbaijani capital, Baku, to Perm in the Ural Mountains when the hijackers diverted it to Ukraine, authorities in Russia said.

The Azerbaijani capital has been gripped by political unrest in the past few months, including a government crackdown on Iranian-backed militants who have demanded that southern parts of Azerbaijan be united with northern Iran.

In Kiev, the jet took on fuel and an English-speaking Ukrainian navigator, before landing at the Gardermoen airport, in the town of Ullensaker, 25 miles north of Oslo.

Norwegian officials from different agencies gave conflicting reports throughout the 4^4-hour standoff, including the number of hijackers and the number of people aboard the aircraft.

The last hijacking involving Norway occurred in 1985, when a drunken, 24-year-old Norwegian commandeered a domestic flight with an air pistol. He surrendered after arriving in Oslo.