Thousands of people greeted with song and dance the 29 Kuwaitis released after a 16-day hijacking ordeal by Shiite Moslem gunmen, who obtained safe passage from Algiers and were said to be home in Lebanon.

Western diplomatic sources said the nine hijackers had reached Beirut.The two other freed hostages, Saudi Arabian citizens, were flown home in a private executive jet.

Friday's editions of The New York Times quoted unidentified Arab officials as saying the hijackers, who had killed two Kuwaiti hostages, were flown on a private Algerian jet to Damascus, Syria, and then were believed to have traveled by land to Beirut.

The officials also were quoted as saying that, with the exception of one Iranian, most of the hijackers were thought to be Lebanese citizens.

Western intelligence sources have said that the nine are believed to be members of Hezbollah, or Party of God, the pro-Iranian extremist group based in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley.

A PLO mediator in the hijacking was quoted by a Rome newspaper Friday as saying the gunmen originally planned to land in Lebanon, blow up the plane and keep the passengers hostage in Beirut. Syrian troops, who control the airport, refused to let the plane land.

As they arrived in Kuwait Thursday night, women threw roses and confetti at the 22 passengers and seven crew members who had been prisoners in the seized Kuwait Airways Boeing 747.

Several said they were certain Iran was a party to the hijacking.