Hijacking drama ends as Saudi commandos storm the plane


MEDINA, Saudi Arabia - Pistol-wielding Saudi Arabian commandoes scrambled up ladders to storm a hijacked Russian airliner on Friday and free more than 100 hostages inside.
Footage of the daylight raid, which left three people dead, was shown on Saudi television.
The Saudi force, wearing flak jackets and helmets, quickly forced their way through the exit doors and into the belly of the plane, parked on a remote section of the sunbaked Medina airport runway.
Through one emergency door kicked open by the security forces, a few hostages came out with their hands in the air. The rest of the prisoners, with anguished looks on their faces, poured down the plane's steps into waiting buses as commandoes wrestled three men onto the tarmac and tied their hands behind their backs.
Ambulance workers rushed up the stairs to the plane and came out with a woman on a stretcher. One elderly woman was in tears.
There were contradictory reports of just who had died in the raid on the plane, seized after it took off from Istanbul on Thursday by hijackers who issued demands that Russia end its harsh military campaign in the rebel Muslim region of Chechnya.
The Saudi Interior Ministry said one hijacker and two hostages were killed in the attack. It said the hijacker was shot dead after he killed a woman hostage.
Abdul Aziz Mahmoud Masalhi, a senior member of the medical team at Medina airport, told Reuters: "Three hijackers, including one woman, were killed. One hijacker was arrested and several passengers injured."
In Moscow, a senior Russian official said the dead were a passenger, a crew member and a hijacker.
The aircraft had been bound for Moscow with 162 passengers and 12 crew when it was seized. More than 40 hostages were reported released or escaped in Medina before it was stormed.
The Saudi Interior Ministry said the plane was attacked when the hijackers threatened to blow it up after negotiations reached a deadlock.

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