Terrorist put AK-47 to my head on flight but I survived – all because of story

A British man who survived a terrifying plane hijack was told by the terrorist why he spared his life.

Four terrorists armed with AK-47s and hand grenades stormed Pan Am Flight 73 as it stopped to pick up passengers at Karachi, in Pakistan, before carrying on to its ultimate destination in New York.

Mike Thexton, who had been in Pakistan visiting the grave of his older brother, was one of the passengers singled out to be shot in order to force the authorities into giving in to the hijackers’ demands.

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He described the moment he was called to the front of the plane: “For a moment I was just thinking, 'How? Why? Why have they picked me?’"

Mike tried to think of any other reason that the hijackers might have singled him out apart from an execution.

He told LadBible: “I couldn't think of anything that was remotely convincing. So I stood up with what might well have been my last words, which were, "For f**k's sake!’”

The hijack ringleader told Mike to kneel by a doorway, with his hands on his head and the passenger couldn't think "of any way out of this".

The hijacker – Jordanian-born ringleader, Zaid Hassan Abd Latif Safarini – pressed the barrel of his AK47 to Mike’s head.

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“I just knew how awful it had been for my family when my brother died,” Mike said, “and now it was happening again".

“And I said to him, ‘Please don't hurt me, my brother died in the mountains, my parents have no one else’."

The terrorist responded by saying he was "too busy for that" and pushed him down behind the door.

The hijackers had been planning to use the massive Jumbo Jet as a suicide bomb and crash it into a target in Israel in retaliation for a US strike on Libya.

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But the fact that a flight attendant had warned the pilot and co-pilot – who then made their escape before the terrorists could seize full control of the plane – had left the plan in tatters.

Instead a tense standoff dragged on until nightfall, when in a chaotic attack Pakistani special forces stormed the aircraft.

By this time, Mike had been returned to his seat by the terrorists.

In the confusion, a number of passengers – including Mike, made their escape. He dropped over 20 feet from the plane’s wing and scrambled to safety.

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Year later, he had an opportunity to question the man who had held him at gunpoint when Safarini called Mike from jail.

“And when he came through, he sounded very friendly,” Mike recalled. “He said, ‘Oh, Mike, my old friend, it's good to speak to you’.

“And so my first question was: ‘Why did you put me back with the others at the end of the hijack? Why did you not just shoot me?’.”

The terrorist, who is serving a 160-year sentence at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, explained: “It was what you said about your brother. You said your brother was killed or died or something and it touched my heart."

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Mike said he didn’t even think Safarini had been listening to him: “When they first called me forward, I didn't think he was listening to me at all.

“The idea that he would remember that 12 hours later when they were about to shoot people had not occurred to me”.

But,” Mike added: “I don't think of him as the man who spared my life, I think of him as the man who killed all those other people”.

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