Three armed men believed to be deserters from the Spanish Foreign Legion hijacked an Iberia Airlines flight with 23 other person aboard tonight and took a zig-zag course from the Canary Islands to Lisbon Airport, the Spanish news agency EFE reported.
The report said the hijackers demanded food and fuel for the twin-engine DC9, and indicated they planned to fly on to Zimbabwe-Rhodesia in southern Africa.
EFE said the gunmen drove onto the runway at Fuerteventura, in the Canary Islands, in a stolen police jeep, and forced their way into the plane, which had just landed. Iberia Airlines officials said they took 18 passengers as hostages, as well as two cleaning women who had boarded the plane, the pilot, copilot and a stewardess.
Communications officials in Fuerteventura said the indesive gunmen first ordered the jetliner to Casablanca, Morocco. When it was refused permission to land there, the pilot was directed to go to Algiers and later to Lisbon, where it was allowed to land, reportedly on the request of Moroccan authorities.
The officials at Fuerteventura said the pirates had said they would release all hostages if any country offered them political asylum. The officials said the three gunmen explained they were taking the plane in order to "escape from the Legion" and that they initially requested information on the fastest rougt to Bordeaux, France.
The Portugese news agency ANOP said the hijackers, on landing in Lisbon, had requested fuel to take off again. It said the Portuguese Air Force may provide the fuel.
EFE quoted reliable sources as saying the hijackers were two Spanish legionnaires from France and one from Chile, and not three Germans as first reported.
Fuerteventura, the second largest of the Spanish Canary Islands, is about 65 miles west of the Moroccan coast.
EFE said the men seized control of the Iberia Airlines plane at Puerto Rosario, the capital of Fuerteventura, when it landed after a flight from Las Palmas on the nearby island of Gran Canaria.
Some of the passengers were leaving the plane, EFE said, when leaving the plane, EFE said, when the gunmen shouldered their way aboard the craft, and forced the remaining passengers to stay in the plane. They also reportedly ordered that a full load of fuel be taken on.
It was believed the hijackers belonged to the Juan de Austria regiment of the Spanish Foreign Legion.
The Spanish Foreign Legion has about 10,000 men, 4,000 of whome are assiged to the Fuerteventura garrison. The others are stationed at various posts in the Canary Islands and in two Spanish enclaves, Ceuta and Melilla, on Morocco's northern coast.