Third hostagekilled in Algiers

A third hostage was murdered by the hijackers of a French Airbus at Algiers airport last night. More than 170 passengers and crew were still being held at gunpoint after spending more than 24 hours, including the whole of Christmas Day, as the ho stages of Islamic fundamentalist gunmen.

Late last night the hijackers opened the rear door of the aircraft, fired a warning shot and dumped a body on to the runway. An airport ambulance was allowed on to the runway to retrieve the body.

There were earlier unconfirmed reports that the hijackers had threatened to murder a French national unless the plane took off by 9.30pm local time.

The five gunmen, disguised as airport workers, seized the Air France aircraft on Saturday evening as it was preparing to take off for Paris. Shortly afterwards, they shot two passengers, an Algerian policeman and a Vietnamese diplomat, and threw out their bodies.

By late last night, they had released all children and 66 women passengers but the fate of the others remained uncertain. The French government had earlier indicated that it might be prepared to allow the Airbus to fly to France.

According to another report, however, Paris had moved elite anti-terrorist police to the island of Majorca ready to intervene.

The hijackers, who evidently timed their action for maximum global attention, demanded the release of two leaders of the banned Islamic Salvation Front (FIS). They also asked for the plane to be readied for an unknown destination. Initially, they called

for the release from house arrest of Abassi Madani and Ali Belhadj by 10am yesterday morning. As the deadline passed, however, they dropped the demand.

Edouard Balladur, France's Prime Minister, interrupted his Christmas weekend in the Alpine resort of Chamonix to return to Paris for an meeting with his defence, foreign and interior ministers and the chief of staff of the armed forces.

He said earlier that France was prepared to help Algeria to end the hijacking. Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, said anti-terrorist units were on alert.

"The hostages are our primary concern," Mr Juppe said. Asked if the plane could be allowed to fly to France, he said he did not want "to commit myself to hypotheses but we are ready to consider any initiative allowing a solution to the drama".

According to Algerian officials, 161 passengers and 12 crew were still on the Airbus last night. Most of the passengers were Algerian and about 40 were French. Algerian authorities said they had identified four of the five hijackers, who boarded the plane dressed as Air Algerie ground staff.

They were led by Abdul Abdallah Yahia and were members of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), the most violent of the clandestine fundamentalist groups waging war on the military-backed Algerian government.

When Yahia's mother tried to negotiate by radio from the airport control tower, the response was a burst of automatic fire in the direction of the tower.

The GIA has admitted responsibility for most of the 71 assassinations of foreign residents since it started a campaign to drive foreigners out in September 1993. Some 11,000 Algerians are estimated to have died in the three years of conflict.

Passengers who were released said the gunmen, carrying at least two Kalashnikov rifles and two other automatic weapons, and distributed blankets and headscarves to women so they could cover their heads in conformity with Islamic tradition.

One of the freed women said the Algerian who was killed, reported to be a police officer, shouted: "Don't kill me! I am married, I have a child." The unidentified Vietnamese, reported to be a diplomat, was shot shortly afterwards.

Unholy war, page 5

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee