FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MONDAY,OCTOBER 1, 2001(202) 616-2777
WWW.USDOJ.GOVTDD (202) 514-1888
UNITED STATES ARRESTS KNOWN HIGHJACKER
FROM PAN AMERICAN WORLD AIRWAYS FLIGHT 73
WASHINGTON, D.C. Attorney General John Ashcroft announced today that Zayd Hassan Abd Al-Latif Masud Al Safarini was arrested abroad and transported to the United States in the custody of Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to stand trial in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Safarini was indicted in 1991 for the September 5, 1986, hijacking of Pan American World Airways Flight 73 as it was boarding passengers in Karachi, Pakistan, was arrested abroad and transported to the United States in the custody of Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to stand trial in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colombia.
"Terrorism is a threat to the United States and the entire world and it will not be tolerated," said Attorney General Ashcroft. "This arrest demonstrates the commitment of the U.S. to track down persons charged with having committed terrorist acts against Americans, no matter how long it takes."
Safarini was apprehended by American authorities on Friday, September 28, 2001 after his release from custody in Pakistan, where he had been captured after the hijacking and subsequently convicted and incarcerated. He will be brought before a federal court for a removal proceeding today. At that proceeding, he will be advised of the U.S. criminal charges pending against him and will be entitled to a hearing for the purpose of having the government establish that he is the person named in the indictment. It is anticipated that, at the conclusion of the removal hearing, Safarini will be ordered held for the purpose of being transported to Washington, D.C., to face charges.
"Countering terrorism requires a global reach and strong international cooperation and information sharing among law enforcement and prosecutors worldwide," said Federal Bureau of Investigations Director Robert Mueller. "Today demonstrates the benefit of that principle."
The hijacking of Pan Am Flight 73 was one of the most brutal international terrorist attacks to occur in the 1980's. The incident began at about 6:00 a.m. Karachi time, as passengers were boarding the aircraft for a flight to Frankfurt, Germany en route to New York. Safarini and three other men allegedly disguised themselves as security guards and drove through a guarded gate at the Karachi airport in a van outfitted to look like a security vehicle. They allegedly stopped at the bottom of the stairs of the aircraft, ran up the stairs firing shots and took control of the aircraft. The flight crew was alerted to the incident by flight attendants on board, and were able to escape the aircraft. The aircraft contained 379 passengers and crew, including 89 Americans. Over about the next 16 hours, the hijackers demanded the return of a flight crew. To enforce this demand, the hijackers allegedly selected and executed an American citizen, Rajesh Kumar. The hijackers also allegedly threatened repeatedly to blow up the aircraft with all the passengers on board. At approximately 8:30 p.m., the Auxiliary Power Unit on the aircraft stopped working and lights dimmed. The hijackers allegedly herded the passengers into the center section of the aircraft and positioned themselves with one hijacker at each corner of the aircraft. When the lights went out, the hijackers allegedly opened fire on the assembled passengers and threw hand grenades into the crowd. Twenty-one additional passengers were killed during this assault, including a second American citizen, Surendra Patel. Many others were injured.
Safarini and five other individuals were charged in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on August 28, 1991, in a 126 count indictment relating to the crimes committed during the hijacking. Among other crimes, the indictment charges Safarini with murder of U.S. nationals outside the U.S., attempted murder of U.S. nationals outside the U.S., hostage taking, aircraft piracy, conspiracy and weapons offenses. Safarini and the three other hijackers on board Pan Am 73 were captured and prosecuted in Pakistan. Safarini and the other individuals were convicted, and Safarini served 14 years in prison in Pakistan before being released by Pakistani authorities. Safarini was apprehended by U.S. law enforcement personnel on Friday after his release from Pakistani custody. The case will be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia and the Terrorism and Violent Crime Section, Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice. If convicted of all charges, Safarini faces a maximum penalty of death or life imprisonment.