An Understated Hijacking

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LONDON: What kind of hijackers bring their families along and never even threaten violence? A group of Iraqis who took over an Airbus 310 in Khartoum on Monday and just wanted a ride to London so they could defect. After several hours of negotiations at London's Stanstad Airport which brought the Red Cross, the United Nations Commission on Refugees, and the Iraqi Community Association of London into the loop, the hijackers, pleading for political asylum, gave themselves up without harming any of the 199 people aboard. "It was such a low-key hijacking, it hasn't gotten people terribly excited," says TIME's Helen Gibson in London."The hijackers simply didn't want to go back to Iraq. They would rather face the relatively luxurious British social security system with its dole and housing benefits than an Iraqi jail or Saddam's firing squad." The hijackers took over a Sudanese jetliner initially headed to Amman, Jordan and forced the pilot to fly to London after a stop in Cyprus to refuel. Gibson says it is still unclear whether the British government will jail them, grant them asylum, or do both. -->