Five Soviets who hijacked a jet in the Soviet Union surrendered in Israel Friday and released their eight hostages, officials said.
The surrender ended a drama that began Thursday when the Soviets hijacked a busload of 30 schoolchildren and traded them for a plane out of the country.The Ilyushin-76 plane landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv at 6:30 p.m. (9:30 a.m. MDT). Israel Army radio said the plane was allowed to land after officials received a request from the Soviet Union.
"It's all over," an army spokesman told reporters about 10 minutes after eight people were seen leaving the aircraft. There was no word on whether the hostages had been injured during the ordeal.
Army officials said that shortly after the plane landed, two men and a woman came out of the plane and asked for a translator. They then started brief negotiations in which the hijackers surrendered a gun. The standoff ended a short time later.
In Moscow, a Soviet civil aviation spokesman said the hijackers had demanded a "large sum of money" and were armed with a submachine gun and three pistols.
Just before the plane landed, radio monitors could hear the pilot say: "Ilyushin approaching. Shalom. We are heading for . . . final runway 26."
"Welcome to Israel. Please state the purpose of your visit," the tower responded.
Transportation Minister Chaim Korfu told reporters that the Soviets had requested extradition of the hijackers.
"We know there are no children aboard," Korfu said. "There are five hijackers, four men and a woman, and eight crew members."
Army radio said there had been constant contacts
between Israeli and Soviet airport officials and some diplomatic contacts as well.
It said the hijackers were believed to be Soviet criminals and that they had not asked to land specifically in Israel but only included it on a list of possible destinations.
The Soviets apparently guided the plane to Israel for reasons that are stillunclear, the radio said. It said one of the main Soviet considerations apparently was choosing a country that would extradite the criminals.
Reporters were kept in the terminal building and could only see the movements of vehicles on the darkened runway once the plane landed.
Earlier, radio monitors said that Tel Aviv's control tower had contacted the hijacked plane. "Can I talk with the hijacker?" a controller asked. "No," the pilot responded.
Army radio said the plane at first headed toward Pakistan and Iraq, but then changed course and flew toward Israel.
In Moscow, an official said the incident began Thursday in Ordzhonikidze, the capital of the autonomous region of North Osetiya, bordering on Soviet Georgia in the northern Caucuses 1,250 miles south of Moscow.
"A group of armed bandits hijacked a bus with 30 schoolchildren and a teacher and demanded a plane to deliver them abroad," Albert Vla-sov, head of the Soviet news agency Novosti, told a news conference.
"In order to save the children and the teacher a decision was made to give a plane," Vlasov said. He said the hostages were released unharmed.
Vlasov said the hijackers wanted to go to Israel, South Africa or Pakistan. The hijacking occurred the day after Soviet officials informed 45 Jewish refuseniks who have been denied visas on grounds of state secrecy that barriers to their leaving the country were being dropped.
The last reported hijacking in the Soviet Union occurred in March, when members of a family musical group from Irkutsk in Siberia hid guns and explosives inside their instruments and seized an Aeroflot jet en route to Leningrad.
The plane landed near Leningrad after the pilot said he was running low on fuel. An army assault team stormed the plane, and the hijackers opened fire and set off a bomb. Five of the hijackers died. Three passengers and a flight attendant also were killed.