Three Soviet Jews and an Austrian customs officer were freed unharmed by two Arab guerrillas early today (Saturday, September 29) after being held hostage during a 16-hour ordeal at Vienna airport.
Three Soviet Jews and an Austrian customs officer were freed unharmed by two Arab guerrillas early today (Saturday, September 29) after being held hostage during a 16-hour ordeal at Vienna airport. They were released only after the Austrian authorities agreed to shut down Israel's major European transit camp -- the Schoenau camp, Vienna -- set up for emigrants from the Soviet Union.
The three Jewish hostages, themselves emigrants from the Soviet Union, were taken off a train at the Czechoslovak-Austrian border and driven at high speed to Vienna's Schwechant Airport. There they were held in a blue van while the guerrillas, gripping the firing pins of grenades between their teeth. bargained with the authorities.
Austrian Chancellor Dr. Bruno Kreisky, who is of Jewish origin, was in constant telephone contact with the heavily-guarded airport throughout the drama.
News that the authorities had agreed to close down the Schoenau Camp, operated by a Jewish agency, produced immediate repercussions. The Israeli cabinet met in emergency session to discuss what they regarded as a surrender to Arab terror demands -- and the Israeli Ambassador to Vienna was recalled.
This was how Austrian Justice Minister Christian Broda justified his government's decision in a brief statement to newsmen.
Ironically, after the decision to close the camp had ensured the release of the hostages, the three Jewish emigrants were then returned to Schoenau -- they were filmed arriving by Visnews cameraman Sepp Riff.
But the end of the airport ordeal simultaneously created a new chapter to the drama. The Arab gunmen criss-crossed the Mediterranean in a privately owned Austrian light aircraft as one Arab government after another refused to allow them to land. Finally, it was reported late tonight that the airport had been given permission to land at Tripoli airport by the Libyan authorities.
SYNOPSIS: Two Arab guerrillas, armed with hand grenades, held four hostages aboard a van at Vienna's airport during a sixteen-hour ordeal on Friday night. While securitymen closed off the airport, the authorities bargained for the lives of the hostages -- three Soviet Jewish emigrants and an Austrian customs official. They'd been seized close to the Czech border and driven to the airport by their captors, pawns in the latest battle of will between the kidnappers and the authorities.
During the early hours of Saturday, a procession of cars signalled the end of one ordeal -- and the beginning of another. The four hostages had been released and the guerrillas were to be flown out of Austria to an Arab country. Several countries refused them permission to land, and it was Saturday night before Libya allowed them in.
The hostages had been released after the Austrian authorities agreed to close Schoenau transit camp, which receives Jewish emigrants crossing out of the Soviet Union.
The three Jewish hostages had been on their way there when seized by the Arab gunmen, and they finally reached their original destination once their airport captivity was over. Meantime, the Austrian decision to close the camp provoked immediate repercussions. The Israeli Cabinet was myogen in emergency session on Saturday night to discuss what it viewed as a surrender to Arab terror demands. And the Israeli Ambassador to Vienna was recalled. But the Austrian decision was defended by Broda in a brief statement.