A lone hijacker commandeered a Middle East Airlines jet with 113 persons aboard yesterday and forced it to land in Kuwait.
Kuwait radio reported the hijacker was demanding a ransom of $1.5 million for the Boeing 707 jetliner's 102 passengers an 11 crew members.
The airliner was flying from Beirut, Lebanon to Bagdad, Iraq when the hijacker seized control. In Beirut, Lebanese officials in contact with Kuwaiti authorities said the hijacker identified himself as Abu Nasser, a Lebanese from the port city of Tripoli.
First reports from Kuwait, where police and fire engines surrounded the plane after it landed at Kuwait International Airport, said officials there refused to make any deal with the hijacker and demanded the immediate release of the passengers and crew.
Officials in Beirut said later that Kuwaiti authorities had agreed to meet the ransom demand.
Kuwait radio said the hijacker wanted the ransom to be paid Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. He also demanded that a negotiating panel including the ambassadors to Kuwait from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and a Kuwaiti official, handle the exchange.
Kuwait's Interior and Defense Minister Saad Abdullah Sabah, the nephew of the ruling Sheik Sabah Salem Sabah, took charge of the negotiations at the airport, where the sweltering desert heat often reaches 114 degrees in the daytime.
Sources at Beirut airport, where the flight originated, said the plane's passenger list included 56 Lebanese, 24 Iraqis, eight Palestinians, two Kuwaitis, three Jordanians, two Syrians, two Britons, two South Yemenis, and one Saudi Arabian. The sources said the 11 crew members are Lebanese.
Assad Nassar, managing director of Beirut-based Middle East Airlines, said there were three infants among the passengers.
A Beirut airport source said one of the passengers on the aircraft was a Palestinian named Abu Srour, who had arrived in Beirut Friday from Libya and was denied entry. Authorities had placed Abu Srour, who carried a Libyan passport, on the plane.