Pan Am Flight 73: Indian victims' kin seek meeting with Obama

In a letter addressed to the US President, they said that they are yet to receive any compensation from the Libyan government. The US government had worked out a settlement under which only US citizens got compensation from Libya whereas the Indian victims were not given anything, the families rued in the letter dated October 21.

The hijacking of the plane in Karachi in 1986 that lasted 17 hours, ended in a blood-bath, with the terrorists hurling hand grenades and spraying bullets from automatic weapons. Twenty people died, of which 13 were Indian nationals and over 100 Indians were injured, some of them very seriously.

"To our surprise, the US Department of State (under the George W Bush administration) espoused only the claims of US citizens as of 1986, ignoring all precedents and ignoring US responsibility for foreign nationals aboard a US flagship air-carrier," the letter said.

"This, despite the fact that more than two-thirds of the victims on that US airplane were non-US nationals. To the contrary, many – including all of the cabin crew whose acts of heroism on the plane that horrific day have been formally honoured and commended by the US government – were Indian nationals!" they wrote.

"Because of this unilateral decision of the US Government to ignore the rightful claims of Indians trapped on a US plane (an attack explicitly targeted at America and Americans), we are still awaiting closure of this unfortunate incident which has played havoc with our lives and left permanent scars on our mind and body," they said.

Noting that Obama has a reputation for being both fair and just - committed to providing justice for all, the Indian families of the victims of the Pan Am Flight 73 requested the US President not to desert them.

"As in the case of Pan Am 103 (Lockerbie) where passengers of all nationalities were provided compensation and closure, the US Government needs to include us in the Libyan Claims Resolution. We were on an American plane and the terror attack was aimed at Americans, many of whose lives were heroically saved by the Indian cabin crew, including Neerja Bhanot who lost her life in the incident," they said.

"We do hope you will schedule a little time with us during your visit in India...," said the letter by the 'Victims and Families from the American Airliner Pan Am Flight 73 Terrorist Attack'.

The letter reminds the US President that the Libyan-backed terrorists were not able to achieve their objective of killing all Americans on board Pan Am 73 - thanks in a large part to the courage shown by the Indian air hostesses on that flight.

"As the terrorists boarded the plane, an Indian air hostess (Bhanot) managed to alert the all-American cockpit crew, who promptly escaped from the emergency hatch. "When asked to collect the passports of all the passengers, so that the hijackers could identify the US citizens, the air hostesses surreptitiously hid the passports of the Americans, saving many lives, while risking their own," the families noted.

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