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Hijacking Suspect Parachute Out

May 25, 2000

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ A Philippines Airlines jet with 290 people aboard was hijacked today by a man who took everyone’s money and then parachuted to the ground outside Manila, authorities said.

The Airbus 330 left Davao City, in the southern Philippines, for the 90-minute flight to Manila with 278 passengers and 12 crew aboard, PAL said.

The hijacker, wearing a blue ski mask and carrying a handgun and a grenade, ordered the pilot of Flight PR812 to return to Davao City, 600 miles from Manila, but the pilot said he did not have enough fuel, Manila airport general manager Antonio Gana said.

Later, the plane was depressurized to permit the hijacker to jump with a parachute while it circled 13 miles from Manila at 6,000 feet, PAL spokesman Ronaldo Estabillo said.

The jet landed at the Manila airport 2 1/2 hours after taking off, and all the passengers left the plane safely. It was not immediately clear if the hijacker had any accomplices aboard.

Passenger Ida Marie Bernasconi, a reporter for Manila’s TV Channel 13, said the hijacker carried ropes and appeared to have prepared for his jump.

He used the ropes to get out of the plane, she said, but did not describe how.

``Before he left, he collected all the money he could from the passengers,″ she said, adding that she and the cabin crew helped him.

Police were searching the area where the hijacker might have landed.

Security was heightened at all airports in the southern Philippines after the hijacking, Southern Command Lt. Gen. Deomedio Villanueva said.

``We are still investigating how the hijackers were able to board the plane despite strict security in Davao airport,″ Villanueva said.

The military is battling Muslim guerrillas fighting for a separate Islamic state in the impoverished southern Philippines. One band of rebels holds 21 Western and Asian hostages there.

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