MOSCOW - The Russian plane that hijackers forced to land in Saudi Arabia returned on Monday to Moscow, while the family and friends of a flight attendant killed during the storming of the plane gathered for a memorial service.
Three Chechen men armed with knives and an ax hijacked the Vnukovo Airlines plane on Thursday shortly after it left Istanbul, bound for Moscow, with 174 people aboard. Eighteen hours after the plane landed in Medina, Saudi Arabia, Saudi special forces stormed it. Flight attendant Yulia Fomina, a Turkish passenger and one of the hijackers were killed.
Saudi officials said that Fomina was stabbed to death by one of hijackers, but Moscow Prosecutor Mikhail Avdyukov said Monday that the attendant was killed by Saudi special troops during the storming.
"According to forensic experts, she died of a single gunshot wound to the neck," Avdyukov said, adding that the hijackers didn't have firearms. Avdyukov said that the Russian forensic experts had traveled to Medina to examine Fomina's body, the Interfax news agency reported.
The hijackers were identified as Chechens Sufian Arsayev, Eriskhan Arsayev and Deni Magomerzayev. There were conflicting reports on which one of the three had been killed. Russian officials were seeking to have the two surviving hijackers extradited to Russia to face trial.
Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef said Sunday that the Russian request was under discussion between officials of the two countries.
A team of Russian technicians traveled to Medina over the weekend to perform some repairs to the plane, which was damaged during the storming. Vnukovo Airlines official Lyudmila Bogdanchikova said that a commission would assess the damage.
Meanwhile, Fomina's relatives, colleagues and friends gathered for a private memorial service at the Central Clinical Hospital in Moscow. The slain flight attendant was to be buried later in the day.