Saturday, July 19, 2008

Croatian Hijacker to be Paroled

Sunday’s New York Times noted the parole of Zvone Busic, a Croat involved in a hijacking of a TWA flight in 1976 designed to draw attention to the Croatian independence movement (Croatian Leader of 1976 Hijacking Is Granted Parole, but Faces Deportation).

When Croatian hijackers took over TWA Flight 355 not long after its departure from La Guardia on 10 September 1976, they announced they had put five bombs on the plane and a sixth in Grand Central. As it turned out, there were none onboard, but the one in Grand Central was real – and one New York City police officer, Brian J. Murray, was killed trying to defuse it. Another officer was blinded in one eye and two more were injured.

Busic, now 62 years old, served more than 30 years, and was granted parole on Friday but will not be allowed to remain in the United States.

About a week after the hijacking, the Times ran the story,
New York’s Croatians: Close-Knit and Fiery, which describes the community at that time. The article states that up to 35 percent of the 60,000 Croats in the city in the late 1970s arrived after World War II and were very politically active; they tended “to think of themselves as exiles rather than immigrants…” Many fled following the 1971 of the “Croatian Spring” reform movement in Yugoslavia, which was quickly extinguished by the Communist authorities.

Yugoslav Communist leader Josip Broz Tito died on 4 May 1980, but already on 23 March the Times published
Violent Acts in U.S. Feared on Tito’s Death, which predicted “Croatian separatists, Serbian nationalists and Yugoslav security police officers” in the US and elsewhere would see Tito’s death as an opportunity to advance their causes. Croats and Serbs in New York, Chicago and elsewhere often alleged that Yugoslav security services had executed terrorist attacks to tarnish their names, complicating the situation.

An earlier hijacking by Croatian nationalists, that of JAT Flight 367, saw the plane explode above Srbska Kamenica, Czechoslovakia. Of the 28 people on board, only stewardess Vesna Vulovaic survived – having fallen 33,300 feet.

She ended up in the Guinness Book of World Records (highest fall without a parachute) and in the New York Times again in April (
Serbia’s Most Famous Survivor Fears That Recent History Will Repeat Itself) in the run-up to the recent elections in Serbia.