CHICAGO - A 62-year-old convicted Croatian terrorist, who hijacked a plane in 1976 and also planted a bomb in Grand Central Terminal that killed a New York City police officer, was deported yesterday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Zvonko Busic led a group that hijacked TWA flight 355 as it departed New York City's LaGuardia Airport en route to Chicago on Sept. 10, 1976.
Busic was paroled July 22 from federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., after serving more than 31 years of a life sentence. He was immediately turned over to ICE and held in custody until his deportation to Zagreb, Croatia, under escort by three ICE officers.
"This individual committed heinous acts of terrorism against the United States, and in doing so, has lost all rights to remain in the country," said Julie L. Myers, Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for ICE. "ICE works tirelessly to keep our communities and our country more secure with every dangerous criminal we deport."
In 1976, Busic and four others hijacked TWA flight 355 with 85 passengers and seven crew members on board, claiming to have five bombs aboard the aircraft. Although there were no bombs on the plane, the group had planted a live bomb in a locker at Grand Central Terminal in New York City. Busic and his co-conspirators hijacked the plane and planted the bomb to draw international attention to Croatia's fight for independence from communist Yugoslavia.
Busic led the group and delivered a note to the plane's captain that stated the flight was being hijacked, and that the group possessed five bombs. The note also stated that there was a bomb placed in a locker in Grand Central Terminal in midtown Manhattan. The hijackers instructed the pilot to fly to Europe so that leaflets demanding Croatian independence could be dropped over major European cities.
The flight was diverted to Montreal for refueling and then to Gandor, Newfoundland, to allow 33 passengers to deplane before the aircraft departed for Europe, where propaganda leaflets were dropped over London and Paris.
During that time, the bomb at Grand Central was located and taken to a safe location for disposal. As authorities attempted to dismantle the bomb, it exploded, killing New York City Police Officer Brian Murray, and seriously injuring three other officers.
Busic, a native of the former Republic of Yugoslavia and a citizen of Croatia, claimed he committed these terrorist acts to draw attention to the communist regime in Yugoslavia. After the demands of the group were met, Busic and his co-conspirators surrendered to French authorities. They were returned to the United States and arrested by the FBI at New York's Kennedy Airport.
Busic was convicted of air piracy resulting in death and conspiracy to commit a crime against the United States in 1977. He received a life sentence with the possibility of parole. In 1987 he briefly escaped from the Federal Correctional Institution at Otisville, N.Y., and was apprehended the next day.
Busic, a U.S. permanent resident, was stripped of his legal immigration status as a result of his criminal convictions. While in prison, Busic was placed into deportation proceedings and on July 31, 2006, a federal immigration judge ordered him removed from the United States after his release from federal prison.