Avoid American airlines, Indians told

December 16th, 2011 - 9:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Chandigarh, Dec 16 (IANS) Citing a US State Department advisory warning Americans of potential terror attacks against US interests, the Travel Agents Forum of India Friday asked Indians to avoid American airlines.

Forum convenor Anish Agarwal said: “Travelling by an American airline carries a higher risk as is evident from an advisory issued Dec 5 by the State Department, warning Americans around the world of the potential for terrorist attacks against US interests.

“American airlines are obviously a target of choice for these terrorists.”

The forum has pointed out that given the past experience with the US agencies, in case of a terrorist attack, the interests of US nationals matter for them the most rather than passengers from other countries.

Citing the example of a US flagship airliner ‘Pan American Airways’ whose Flight PA-73 was hijacked at Karachi airport September 1986, Agarwal said: “The terrorist attack was carried out on the American airliner at the behest of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi who wanted revenge for the bombing of Tripoli by American warplanes just a few months before the hijack incident. There were around 390 passengers and crew members of which around 44 were American nationals while majority of the rest were Indians.”

“The plane had landed at Karachi airport from Mumbai and was on its way to New York when four terrorists armed with assault guns and explosives boarded the plane. On being alerted by an Indian cabin crew member (all the cabin crew members were Indian), the three-member American flight crew of pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer abandoned the aircraft by jumping out of the cockpit and fled to the safety of the airport terminal, leaving behind the passengers and the Indian cabin crew at the mercy of the terrorists.”

He said that the terrorists only wanted to harm US citizens on board the flight and asked for their passports.

“In an amazing act of compassion and bravery and risking their own lives, the Indian cabin crew hid the passports of the Americans and saved their lives. In the final carnage, the terrorists herded all the passengers in one section of the aircraft, fired at them from their assault weapons and hurled grenades at them. Twenty-one passengers died, of which two were Americans while 14 were Indians and the others of different nationalities.”

Among those killed in the hijacking was Pan-am senior purser Neerja Bhanot, who hailed from Chandigarh, who saved several lives while sacrificing her own. She was later awarded the highest peacetime civilian award for bravery, Ashok Chakra in 1987 by the Government of India.

Aggarwal pointed out that the US authorities went after Libya and forced it to compensate the victims. “However, the US government only espoused the cause of the 44 Americans and left the passengers of the other nationalities high and dry,” he pointed out.

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