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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hundreds Mourn Flight Attendant

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Distraught relatives, colleagues and almost all of the passengers from the ill-fated Vnukovo Airlines flight came to bid farewell Monday to stewardess Yulia Fomina, who died when Saudi commandos stormed the plane to end a hijacking.

Some crew members and terrorism experts questioned whether the commandos were adequately trained to storm the plane and whether Fomina's death could have been prevented.

She was laid to rest Monday among hundreds of flowers in the Pykhtinskoye Cemetery, near Vnukovo Airport, where many airline employees are buried.

Passengers remembered Fomina, 27, for her attempts to smile and reassure them during the hijacking, although visibly shaking herself, and they recalled how she comforted children whose mothers were hysterical.

One passenger, Nadezhda Koshevarova, said on NTV television that it was Fomina who warned the passengers to get down when Saudi commandos burst into the Tu-154 on Friday.

Fomina was trying to open one of the emergency exits to let in the commandos when one of them shot her in the neck and killed her, Moscow prosecutors ruled Monday, confirming passengers' reports that she was killed by the gunfire. Saudi officials said her throat was slit by one of the Chechen hijackers.

The Tu-154 plane was hijacked by three Chechens shortly after taking off from Istanbul on Thursday with 162 passengers and 12 crew. The hijackers were identified as Supyan Arsayev and his two teenage sons.

Flight attendant Alexander Khromov stopped the terrorists when they tried to burst into the cockpit and was stabbed in the stomach by Arsayev. The pilots and another of the flight attendants managed to seal themselves in the cockpit.

Once the plane landed in Medina, a holy city in Saudi Arabia, 40 people on board, including Khromov, were released or escaped.

The hijackers then demanded the plane be flown to Afghanistan, and when the pilots refused, they tried to break down the cockpit door with an ax. It was then that Saudi commandos decided to storm the plane.

Saudi Arabia reportedly obtained permission Russian authorities to do so, but refused to let the Federal Security Service's elite anti-terrorist unit, Alfa, fly into Medina and participate in the operation.

In addition to Fomina, 27-year-old Turkish passenger Gursel Kambal also was shot and killed during the storming. The commandos also killed Supyan Arsayev.

Flight attendant Andrei Guselnikov, who was barricaded in the cockpit, said the Saudi operation was ill-prepared. He told NTV on Monday that before the raid he climbed down to the ground by rope four times to try to persuade the commandos to climb up with him and enter the cabin from the cockpit and take the hijackers by surprise.

Soon after Fomina was buried, Moscow city Prosecutor Mikhail Avdyukov officially announced that a forensic examine showed Fokina had died of a gunshot wound. Chief city transport prosecutor Mikhail Nikonov added that she was hit while trying to open one of the airliner's emergency exits.

Some terrorism experts, however, didn't wait for the forensic report to accuse the Saudi commandos of incompetence.

Speaking Saturday on NTV, Colonel Oleg Balashov of the Alfa unit said the Saudis should have continued negotiations rather than burst into a plane they had not been trained to storm.

Sergei Goncharov, who commanded Alfa from 1978 to 1993, told NTV the Saudis should have entered the cabin through hatches from the luggage compartment to take the terrorists by surprise, rather than spend precious seconds knocking down doors of the plane.

Robert Ivan, who served as the first commander of Alfa unit, said the Saudis should not have "rushed" the storming of the plane. Ivan, also speaking on NTV, said television footage showed that the plane's hull and windows were riddled with bullets, which he said proved the commandos were "shooting blindly." He said their actions were "absolutely incompetent."

Reached by phone Monday, other terrorism experts said the Saudis were right to have stormed the plane.

"True, one could say they were not optimally trained and some lost their nerve, … but they made the right decision," said Vladimir Lutsenko, who used to head the anti-terrorist department in the Soviet KGB's 5th directorate.

If the hijacking had succeeded, it most likely would have been followed by more, said Lutsenko, who served more than 30 years in the KGB.

"This operation has helped to save the lives of many passengers who could otherwise have seen their planes hijacked in the future," he said.

Lutsenko cited an entire series of hijackings of helicopters by Chechen rebels in southern Russia in the mid-1990s, which ended only after Russian commandos stormed one helicopter before it could take off.

One of the other flight attendants, Svetlana Ivaniv, said the storming was frightening.

"They aimed a gun at me and I saw Yulia lying all bleeding," Ivaniv said on ORT television. "But then I told them that I'm a flight attendant and they put the gun down.

"The worst thing was to find out that it was the commandos [who shot Fomina]," she said.

Fomina had been working as a flight attendant for six years. She got the job at Vnukovo Airlines some four years ago with the help of her older sister, Viktoria Vasilyeva, who heads the department in charge of flight attendants.

Employees of Vnukovo Airlines, who earn an average of 5,000 to 6,000 rubles ($175 to $210) a month at the country's No. 4 carrier, have often gone unpaid for months. Last year, they went on strike twice over wage arrears.

NTV showed relatives of the pilots and flight attendants who came to meet them at the airport Saturday saying that many Vnukovo Airlines employees have not been paid since September but did not make an issue of it for fear of losing their jobs.

Fomina's family will receive 460,000 rubles in compensation from the airline, which also will buy a four-room Moscow apartment for her husband and 9-year-old daughter, Yana, Interfax reported.

The hijacked aircraft, which Vnukovo officials plan to name after Fomina, returned to Moscow on Monday. Interfax quoted airline officials saying that the plane, which has already been declared fit to fly, will be checked once again before it resumes commercial flights.