Pan Am Flight 73

Pan Am Flight 73

Infobox Airliner accident|name=Pan Am Flight 73
Date=September 5, 1986
Site=Karachi, Pakistan
Origin=Sahar International Airport
Stopover= Karachi International Airport
Frankfurt International Airport
Destination=John F. Kennedy International Airport
Aircraft Type=Boeing 747-100
Operator=Pan American World Airways
Tail Number=airreg|N|656PA|disaster

Pan American World Airways' Pan Am Flight 73 was hijacked on September 5, 1986, by four armed men of the Abu Nidal Organization. The Boeing 747 with 360 on board had just arrived from Bombay, India, and was preparing to depart Karachi International Airport in Pakistan for Frankfurt International Airport in Frankfurt, Germany, continuing on to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. At least 20 died during the hijacking, including citizens of the United States, Pakistan, India and Mexico. Over 120 passengers were wounded in the assault.

Hijacking at Karachi

The incident began as passengers boarded the aircraft for the flight which had originated in Bombay and was scheduled to fly to Frankfurt and then to New York. Subsequent FBI investigation revealed that the hijack occurred despite the presence of armed agents near the aircraft. The four hijackers were dressed as Karachi airport security guards and were armed with assault rifles, pistols, grenades and plastic explosive belts. At about 06:00 a.m. local time, the hijackers drove a van that had been modified to look like an airport security vehicle through a security checkpoint up to one of the boarding stairways to Pan Am Flight 73.

The hijackers stormed up the stairways into the plane, fired shots from an automatic weapon and seized control of the aircraft. Flight attendants were able to alert the cockpit crew using intercom, allowing the pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer to escape through an overhead hatch in the cockpit, effectively grounding the aircraft. [ [ Pan Am Flight 73: victims recount horrors] DOJ May 13 2004]

afarini takes control

Within a short time after seizing control of the aircraft, Safarini ordered the flight attendants to collect the passports of passengers. The flight attendants complied with this request but, risking their own lives, they surreptitiously declined to collect some of the United States passports and hid other United States passports from the hijackers. After the passports had been collected, Safarini walked through the cabin of the aircraft, asking passengers about their nationalities. When he arrived at the seat of Rajesh Kumar, a 29-year-old California resident who had recently been naturalized as an American citizen, Safarini ordered Mr. Kumar to come to the front of the aircraft, to kneel at the front doorway of the aircraft and to face the front of the aircraft with his hands behind his head.

At approximately 10:00 a.m., Safarini became angry about the delay in complying with his demand for a new flight crew and demand to flying to Cyprus and he threatened that he would shoot Mr. Kumar if something was not done within 15 minutes. Shortly thereafter, Safarini grabbed Mr. Kumar and shot him in the head in front of witnesses both on and off the aircraft. Safarini then heaved Mr. Kumar out of the door onto the tarmac below. Pakistani personnel on the tarmac reported that Mr. Kumar was still breathing when he was placed in an ambulance, but he was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at a hospital in Karachi.


The situation came to an end when hijackers opened fire on the passengers aboard the plane. Passengers fled the aircraft though emergency exits, and Pakistani commandos responded to the gunfire by storming the plane. Casualties were heavy, with twenty-two dead and more than 150 injured. [ [ Karachi hijack ends in bloodshed] ]


Killed in the incident were Rajesh Kumar, 29, and Surendra Manubhai Patel, 50 (both from the USA); José Álvarez Lamar Nuñez, 57, and Ricardo Muñoz Rosales, 28 (both from Mexico); Syed Nesar Ahmad, 43, Imran Rizvi, 17, and Meherjee Minocher Kharas, 28 (all from Pakistan); and from India, Kuverben Patel, 81, Kala Singh, 36, Seetharamiah Krishnaswamy, 61, Trupti Dalal, 28, Krishna Kumari Gadde, 28, Neerja Bhanot, 23, Ganapathi Thanikaimoni, 48, Boby Thomachen Mulloor, 7, Thomachen Thomas Mulloor, 30, Aleyamma Scaria Nagatholy, 39, Ramakant Naik, 55, Rupal Desai, 26, and Kodiyattu K. Kurian, 25.

Many of the Passengers and Crew were from India, but many others were from Germany, Italy and 10 other countries including 18 Americans.

The American Memorial Site has a web page dedicated to the victims of Pan Am Flight 73 - []



On July 6, 1988, five men were convicted of their roles in the hijacking and sentenced to death, but the sentences was later commuted to life in prison. On September 28 2001, Zayd Hassan Abd Al-Latif Masud Al Safarini was captured by the FBI in Bangkok after he was released in Pakistan and was on his way back to Jordan. He was taken to the United States where on May 13, 2004 he was sentenced to a 160-year prison term at ADX Florence in Colorado. At the plea proceeding, Safarini admitted that he and his fellow hijackers committed the offenses as members of the Abu Nidal Organization, also called the ANO, a foreign terrorist organization. Safarini and the other hijackers were initially prosecuted in Pakistan and convicted of numerous crimes pertaining to the hijacking.

In 1988, a secret message written on cigarette packets and foils was delivered to Pakistani journalist Masror Hausen of "The Muslim", who covered the trial. The hijackers revealed the true motive behind hijacking was: "to fill up the aircraft with explosives and hit the Israeli defence ministry, using the aircraft as a missile..."Fact|date=December 2007

On January 4 2008 the Associated Press reported that the four hijackers in Adiala Jail - Mohammed Abdul Khalil Hussain, Daud Mohammed Hafiz, Mohammed Ahmed al-Munawar and Jamal Saeed,were set free by the Pakistani Authorities and deported to the Palestinian territories. [ [ Pakistan Releases 4 in 1986 Hijacking] ]

Legal action

Libya has been accused of sponsoring the hijacking, as well as carrying out the bombings of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988 and UTA Flight 772 in 1989. In 1991, a press briefing for an indictment by the U.S. Justice Department over Pan Am 103 said that "Libya provided financial and logistic support to the Abu Nidal Organization hijacking of Pan Am Flight 73 in Karachi, Pakistan" and that "the Libyan People's Bureau in Islamabad assisted at least one of the hijackers by providing him with travel documentation"."

In August 2003, Libya accepted responsibility for "the actions of its officials" in respect of both airliner bombings, but was silent on the question of the Pan Am Flight 73 hijacking. Libya offered $2.7 billion in compensation to the families of the 270 victims of Pan Am Flight 103 and, in January 2004, agreed to pay $170 million to the families of the 170 UTA victims. The seven American UTA victims' families refused the offer and instead filed a claim for $2.2 billion against Libya. From 2004-2006 the U.S. and UK opened up relations with Libya, including removing sanctions and removing the country as a sponsor of terrorism.

In June 2004, a volunteer group of families and victims from the incident, "Families from Pan Am Flight 73", was formed to work toward a memorial for those killed in the incident, to seek the truth behind this terrorist attack, and to hold those responsible for it accountable. On April 5, 2006, the law firm of Crowell & Moring LLP, representing the surviving passengers, estates and family members of the hijacking victims, announced it was filing a civil suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking $10 billion in compensatory damages, plus unspecified punitive damages, from Libya, Muammar al-Gaddafi and the five convicted hijackers. The lawsuit alleged Libya provided the Abu Nidal Organization with material support and also ordered the attack as part of a Libyan-sponsored terrorist campaign against American, European and Israeli interests.

British media that was critical of normalisation of relations between Gaddafi and the West reported in March 2004 (days after Prime Minister Tony Blair visited Tripoli) that Libya was behind the hijacking. [ [ Revealed: Gaddafi's air massacre plot] The Times March 28 2004 ] Pakistani media, as reported by "South Asia Tribune", said that one of the hijackers in Adiala jail, Jamal Saeed Abdul Rahim al-Fahid, had confirmed the "Sunday Times" story (via his counsel). Al-Fahid said that the Libyan leader Gaddafi "masterminded the attack" and "he has taken the responsibility of executing the hijacking at the behest of Col. Gaddafi"."

External links

For details about the Pan Am Flight 73 criminal case in Federal Court in D.C. see—
* [ U.S. Department of Justice Attorney's Office For the District of Columbia] Information on court proceedings of Pan Am Flight 73
* [ U.S. Department of Justice May 13, 2004, press release] on the Pan Am Flight 73 criminal caseFor more details about the civil suit see—
*Crowell & Moring Pan Am Flight 73 [ civil suit] against Libya, Gaddafi and the five hijackers

Aircraft Information

Delivered to Pan Am as "Clipper Live Yankee". Later renamed "Clipper Empress of the Seas". Finally renamed "Clipper New Horizons".

Current Status: Scrapped at Pinal Airpark aircraft boneyard, Marana, Arizona (MZJ), 06/1999.

Aircraft Type: Boeing 747 - 121Operator: Pan American World Airways (Pan Am)Registration: N656PADelivery Date: 06/18/1971Service Dates: 1971 to 1991Engine Type: Pratt & Whitney P&W JT9D – 3ACN / LN: 20351/127
* [ Pan Am "Clipper Empress of the Seas" pictures from]
* [ Pan Am "Clipper Empress of the Seas" hijack info from]
* [ Pan Am "Clipper Empress of the Seas" info from]
* [ Pan Am "Clipper Empress of the Seas" info from]
* [ Pan Am "Clipper Empress of the Seas" info from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)]


News Articles

* [ Karachi hijack ends in bloodshed]

ee also

*Bombing of Libya
*Pan Am Flight 103
*UTA Flight 772

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