Algerian negotiators talked with hijackers Monday during a flurry of unexplained activity around the Kuwait Airways jumbo jet hijacked nearly two weeks ago.
Algerian officials privately expressed hope the gunmen might free one or more of their estimated 35 hostages early Monday as a gesture of goodwill to mark the beginning of the monthlong fast of Ramadan, traditionally a period of reconciliation for devout Moslems.The hijackers demanded a special Ramadan meal before dawn, but no hostage had been released when the fast began at daybreak.
On Sunday, a passenger radioed a message to the control
tower saying that the hostages aboard the Boeing 747 faced certain death if 17 pro-Iranian prisoners were not freed from Kuwaiti jails. Kuwait remained steadfast in its rejection of the demand.
A man aboard the jet, who identified himself as Suleiman Farhan Doukhi, said in the message: "All the passengers are in good health. I hope the Kuwait government will act quickly to liberate the 17 young prisoners. Otherwise, we all face a black end."
Three other passengers have made similar statements since the plane landed in Algiers early Wednesday.
The Thailand-to-Kuwait flight was hijacked April 5 with 112 people aboard and forced to land in Mashhad, Iran, where 57 eventually were released. On April 8, the jet flew to Larnaca, Cyprus, where two passengers were killed and 13 freed. Since landing in Algiers one passenger has been freed, leaving about 35 hostages, including three members of Kuwait's extensive royal family.
The five to eight hijackers are demanding the release of the 17 men jailed for bombing the U.S. and French embassies in Kuwait in 1983. The hijackers are armed with grenades and guns and have threatened to blow up the plane.