Mercifully, the hijacking of a Kuwaiti airliner what one of the remaining 31 hostages called a "16-day nightmare" has ended with no further loss of life. And despite the pressure, Kuwait never gave in, refusing to release 17 terrorists from prison as the hijackers demanded.

But aside from those positives, there is much to be frustrated about in this whole event. Two passengers were murdered, others were beaten and subjected to emotional torment. Yet the eight hijackers apparently will walk away from the affair without punishment.That the hijackers get off scott free, with safe conduct out of Algeria, is totally unjust, but there is nothing that can be done. It was part of the deal that Algerians made in getting the gunmen to surrender.

Credit must be given Algerian officials who worked hard for a week as middlemen and negotiators. The Algerians made it clear they wouldn't storm the plane. In return, they got a promise from the hijackers that no further violence would be done to hostages. At the same time, the Algerians refused to refuel the aircraft and let it fly elsewhere.

Those conditions, plus the steadfast refusal of Kuwait to release the jailed pro-Iranian terrorists, eventually made it obvious to the hijackers that they had nothing else to gain by holding out.

Kuwait did what had to be done, even when hostages were being killed. The Kuwaitis refused to deal, no matter what. That is the only response that will discourage hijackings or kidnappings in the long run.

Unfortunately, it is a fact that has been ignored by the West Germans and the French, who have struck deals with terrorists. Even the U.S., although it subscribes to a no-deal policy, undermined its own credibility with the Iran-Contra arms ploy.

There is no question that Iran was involved in this hijacking. After the plane was seized April 5 on a Bangkok-Kuwait flight with 112 passengers aboard, the first stop was Mashhad, Iran, where 57 hostages were released. But in Mashhad the hijackers were expected, they were supported, and they were helped. Additional hijackers may have been allowed to board the plane there.

The refusal of Lebanon to let the plane land at Beirut was probably the first setback in the plan of the hijackers and forced their unscheduled odyssey to Cyrpus and then Algeria.

Terrorism and the taking of hostages are implicity approved by the Iranian government. But there seems to be a widespread tendency by other nations to avoid taking direct action against Iran.

In the meantime, Kuwait's response is the only one that pays simply refuse to deal with hijackers no matter how painful or heart-rending that may be. When two hostages were killed, Kuwait simply became more grim and determined. Only when hijacking is seen to produce no real payoff or reward, will it be abandoned by terrorists.