The alleged mastermind behind the hijacking of Kuwait Airways Flight 422 is a longtime fugitive from justice linked to two earlier hijacks.
Imad Mughniyeh, 36, is one of four suspects wanted by the U.S. Justice Department in the hijacking of a TWA airliner on June 14, 1985, by Shiite Moslem extremists. A U.S. Navy diver was killed and 39 Americans were held hostage for 17 days before being freed after Syrian intervention.
Western intelligence agencies also believe Mughniyeh was involved in the December 1984 hijacking of a Kuwaiti airliner to Tehran that left two Americans dead.
Iranian security forces stormed the plane after five days. The hijackers disappeared and Tehran has issued no word about them. Meanwhile, in Algiers, the 11-day-old hijacking of the Kuwaiti jet settled into routine Friday with no end in sight for the 31 hostages aboard.
Two hostages announced over the Boeing 747 radio that the hijackers "will kill us" unless Kuwait freed 17 men convicted of terrorist attacks against oil installations and the French and U.S. embassies in December 1983.
Their short, midafternoon messages, including greetings to their families, were similar to one broadcast by a hostage Thursday.
"In the name of God the merciful, I ask the Kuwaiti authorities to free the 17 prisoners held in Kuwaiti prisons," said hostage Suleiman Mohammed Suleiman Mashari. "In the event of refusal, they are going to kill us."
Hostage Mohammed Ahmed Ajami offered an almost identical message afterward.
Algerian officials, who hoped to secure the release of at least five hostages and settled Thursday for one, were less optimistic Friday about the desultory negotiations with the eight hooded hijackers since the plane landed here Wednesday.
Algeria apparently hoped that Kuwait and the hijackers would reach a compromise, with the host country tacitly promising that the hostages would not be harmed and the plane would not be stormed while on Algerian soil.
But, barring an unforeseen breakthrough, Algerian chances of negotiating an end to the stalemate appear to be waning.
Diplomats suggested that Algeria would consider its role successful if the 28 passengers and three crew members were released and the hijackers either were flown out of the country or allowed some sort of haven here.
But the United States apparently has sought to block such an outcome.