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October 13, 2009

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After 41 years, hijacker gives himself up

MORE than four decades after he hijacked a jetliner from Kennedy International in New York to Cuba, Luis Armando Pena Soltren voluntarily returned to the same airport to surrender and face prosecution, authorities said yesterday.
Pena Soltren, who was arrested on Sunday after arriving on a flight from Havana, is expected to be arraigned today in Manhattan on a 1968 indictment. The Cuban government authorized his departure, authorities said.
Pena Soltren, a United States citizen, and two accomplices used weapons hidden in a diaper bag to hijack the Pan Am flight on November 24, 1968, authorities said.
"As the 1968 charges allege, he terrorized dozens of passengers when he and his cohorts wielded pistols and knives to hijack Pan American Flight 281," US Attorney Preet Bharara said.
Pena Soltren, 66, had arranged his return with the FBI and State Department because he wanted to see his wife and other family members, who lived in either Puerto Rico or Florida, an FBI spokesman said.
Dozens of US flights were hijacked and diverted to Cuba in the 1960s. Some by self-described radical leftists, fugitives seeking asylum on the Caribbean island or criminals scheming to extort money from the US government or the airlines.
Pan Am Flight 281 was commandeered by three men who ordered the crew to fly to the Cuban capital.
Two of the men were arrested in the mid-1970s and pleaded guilty to their roles, prosecutors said.


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