Passengers aboard the Royal Jordanian Airlines jet said they "cheated death" when the man, Mahmoud Rizek Deeb, a mechanic from the Syrian coastal city of Tartous, threw a stun grenade that injured 15 passengers during the failed hijack.
"I was sitting in the front seat of the airplane and all of a sudden a man was walking in with a gun," Majed Saba, a Lebanese businessman living in upstate New York, told CBS News. "In the beginning I thought it might be a security guard. He pulled the hand grenade and started threatening everybody."
Saba said Deeb, who was aboard the flight with his brother and his two children, first ordered security guards to kneel and let him in the cockpit, and then began threatening other passengers.
"One of the security guards managed to overtake him," said Saba, who said he kept praying during the ordeal.
"The security officer confronted him and the man threw the grenade on the floor towards the economy class. It blew up," said Talib Rifai, the Jordanian information minister.
Some passengers said shots preceded the blast.
"All of a sudden I heard 'da-da-da', gunshots. A second later, an explosion. I saw the fire on the floor of the plane," Canadian resident Ahmed Ossman described the final moments.
The grenade blasted a hole through the cabin floor and injured 15 of the 84 passengers. None were seriously injured.
Deeb was shot and killed immediately by another security guard after he threw the grenade.
"One of the security came in from this side and he said, 'I killed him! I killed him!'" recalls Ossman.
The gunfire left holes in the plane's fuselage, but the pilot managed to return safely to the Amman airport.
The incident took place nearly 10 minutes after the plane left Amman international airport on Wednesday night for the 30-minute flight to the Syrian capital.
"One feels like one cheated death," said another passenger, Ghada Shamout. "I can't describe the horror of the first few seconds of the incident."
Nineteen passengers held U.S. citizenship, but none were hurt.
An official spokesman said the abortive operation was an individual act with no political motives or connections. Deeb had sought to divert the Amman-Damascus flight to Germany to seek asylum, the Amman government said on Thursday.
The spokesman said Deeb had worked in Germany before being jailed in Syria for unspecified criminal activity. The German authorities turned him down when he applied to return to Germany with his family after he was released from jail.
Initial reports had said the hijacker had three accomplices on board the Airbus A320 plane, which returned to Amman and landed safely.
The spokesman said Deeb and his children and brother ad crossed from Syria into Jordan by land on July 4. Investigations were under way to determine how he managed to smuggle a pistol and a grenade onto the plane.
Jordan's King Abdullah was among the first to enter the plane after it landed back at Amman airport. He later visited the wounded at an Amman hospital.
Security incidents at Amman airport have been rare since the days when it was the center of several anti-Israeli hijackings by Palestinian guerrillas in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
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