U.S. News

Monday, October 12, 2009

Suspect in 1968 hijacking 'arrested in NY'

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has arrested a man who has been living in Cuba for four decades to avoid prosecution for his role in an airline hijacking, The New York Times reported Monday.

Citing federal law enforcement officials, the newspaper said Louis Armando Pena Soltren, 66, was detained Sunday after he stepped off a plane from Havana.

An FBI spokesman said Soltren had arranged his return to Kennedy International Airport with the FBI and State Department because he wanted to see his family, including his wife, the report said.

On November 24, 1968, Soltren boarded at the same airport Pan American Flight 281 bound for Puerto Rico, the paper said.

As the plane carrying 96 passengers and seven crew members was flying south of Bermuda, he and two other men armed with guns and knives stormed the cockpit and ordered the pilot to change course for Havana, The Times said.

In 1968, more than 30 planes were hijacked or attempted to have been hijacked to Cuba, including two that day, the paper said.

Passengers on the Pan Am flight described the plane being escorted by Cuban Air Force fighter jets as it approached the island, the report said.

One of the hijackers scrawled inside the plane, "Long live free Puerto Rico."