Terrorists holding 32 passengers captive on a Kuwait Airways jetliner met with Algerian negotiators and allowed a doctor and cleaners aboard the plane Thursday, but one hostage said if the hijackers' demands are not met "they will execute us all."
The developments came nearly 36 hours after the Boeing 747 landed at the airport and just more than a day after a Kuwaiti delegation arrived to open talks. Diplomatic sources said Algerian negotiators were encountering stiff resistance from Kuwaiti officials determined not to grant the hijackers' demands.The hijackers took over the plane April 5 on a non-stop flight from Bangkok, Thailand, to Kuwait, demanding Kuwait release 17 Moslem extremist prisoners.
One Algerian official source said the official Kuwaiti mood was "very tough, hardened" by the funerals in Kuwait Thursday for two nationals slain by the hijackers while the aircraft was in Larnaca, Cyprus.
The hijackers allowed a hostage identified as Zayed Ahmed to talk to the control tower, and he said Kuwait must meet the hijackers' demands.
"I send greetings to my family," Zayed's message, obtained by the official Algerian Press Service began. "I am well. They (the air pirates) demand the liberation of the 17 held by the (Kuwaiti) government. If not, they will execute us all."
The doctor and the two Air Algeria cleaners boarded the aircraft at Houari Boumedienne International Airport at 2:30 p.m. (9:30 a.m. EDT) following a midday negotiating session between the hijackers and Algerian interior ministry officials, official sources said.
Algerian President Chadli Bendjedid met at the airport VIP lounge Thursday with the leader of the Kuwaiti delegation, the minister of state for foreign affairs, Saud Al Ossami, who gave Bendjedid an undisclosed message from the emir of Kuwait.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Thursday affirmed Egypt's support for Kuwait's handling of the hijacking in a telephone call with the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Jabir Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, Information Minister Safwat El-Sherif said.
At the same time, Egyptian Foreign Minister Esmat Abdel-Meguid said, "The information that has been conveyed to us indicates that Iran has a role in this operation."
In Bonn, Iranian military spokesman Kamal Kharazi denied allegations that Iran orchestrated the hijacking. In an interview with the West German news service DPA, he reiterated Iran's claim it wanted to storm the plane when it was in Iran, but Kuwait would not allow it.
The plane was hijacked with 112 people listed aboard. Aside from the two hostages killed, 13 people were freed in Larnaca and 57 were released during the earlier 80-hour stop in Mashhad, Iran. Forty people were believed to remain on the plane, 32 of them hostages.
"This is a very complicated situation," a senior official in the Algerian government information agency said early Thursday. "It has taken a long time to develop and it will take some time to untangle."
The hijackers were greeted Thursday by a 6:30 a.m. message from the control tower that said, "Good morning, plane of the martyrs, we hope you slept well." The air pirates dubbed the aircraft "plane of the martyrs" while they were on the ground in Cyprus.
About two hours later the jumbo jet taxied out of its position in front of the control tower and moved about 1,000 yards east to the end of the runway. The move was made to avoid interferring with the arrival Thursday of Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda for a one-day state visit.
At the insistence of the hijackers, the aircraft was to be returned to its original position once the Zambian president was ushered through the airport.
A news blackout was imposed on the content of the hostage talks and it was unclear if progress could be expected until Kaunda left later in the day.
Wednesday, Algerian Interior Minister El Hady Khediri spoke to the masked gunmen for 30 minutes aboard the aircraft about five hours after it landed at Houari Boumedienne International Airport. Two other negotiators followed him later in the day.
Khediri said the hijackers promised not to use more violence in Algiers but repeated their demand for the release of 17 convicted Shiite Moslem terrorists jailed in Kuwait for the 1983 bombing of the U.S. and French embassies.
Khediri then met with Al-Ossami, who arrived Wednesday leading an eight-man negotiating team.
The Boeing 747 arrived in Algiers after spending five days in Larnaca, where the hijackers killed two hostages and then traded 12 passengers for fuel.
One of the 12 freed passengers was identified by a U.S. Embassy spokesman in Nicosia, Cyprus, as naturalized American citizen Rami Hughes, who was born in Egypt. Hughes said he feared he might be killed if the hijackers knew he was American, so he gave them his Egyptian passport and "kept my American passport hidden in my briefcase."