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Ship Hijacking Victim's Daughter Hails Abu Abbas Capture - 2003-04-16

Relatives of an American man killed in a 1985 ship hijacking are hailing the capture in Iraq of the convicted mastermind of the crime.

Veteran Palestinian guerrilla fighter Abu Abbas is now in the custody of the U.S. military, following a raid in southern Baghdad.

He had lived in exile in Iraq for many years, following his sentencing to life in prison by an Italian court for his role in the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship.

Palestine Liberation Front guerrillas, acting on orders from Abbas, hijacked the Achille Lauro and demanded that Israel release some jailed PLF militants.

When their demand was ignored, the hijackers shot a disabled American Jewish passenger, Leon Klinghoffer, and pushed him overboard in his wheelchair.

Now Mr. Klinghoffer's relatives are demanding justice. His daughter Lisa has told British radio Abbas should stand trial in the United States.

"We would definitely prefer him to be brought here so that he could be tried by the United States, so that we would know that he would actually serve his sentence," she said.

Ms. Klinghoffer expressed bitterness that Abbas never apologized to her family, and that he even once joked that her mother had pushed Mr. Klinghoffer into the sea to collect his life insurance.

Ms. Klinghoffer said all terrorists everywhere should take note of the Abbas capture.

"It kind of sends a message that it does not matter how many years go by," she said, " that when you are a terrorist, as our President Reagan said years ago, there's no place to run and no place to hide. We'll keep looking for you and you'll be gotten."

Despite the Klinghoffer family demands, there are no outstanding U.S. warrants against Abbas. He was sentenced to five life terms in Italy for planning the hijacking, but it is not yet clear if he will be sent there to serve his time.