Hijacked Sudanese Plane Lands in London, Most Passengers Freed
LONDON (AP) _ A hijacked Sudanese jetliner carrying 199 people ended up at London’s Stansted airport before dawn today after several Iraqis claiming to have explosives demanded to go to Britain.
After nearly five hours of negotiations this morning, 160 passengers, mostly women and children, were allowed to leave the plane. But the other 26 passengers and all the 13 crew were forced to remain on board by the six or seven Iraqi hijackers, said Essex police spokeswoman Kim White.
``We have belief that they are armed with some form of explosives, probably grenades,″ she said.
Initial report said the hijackers, some traveling with family members, demanded to see a representative from the Iraqi Community Association in London.
Walid Al-Timimi, a spokesman for the Iraqi Democratic Party which opposes Saddam Hussein, said the association is ``a non-political social and welfare organization″ that helps Iraqi refugees seeking asylum.
``I have never heard of Iraqis carrying out hijackings before,″ he said. ``I condemn this move. It is not a good way to publicize the plight of the Iraqi people.″
But Saad Jabr, chairman of the London-based Free Iraqi Council, said the hijackers may not have had another option.
``Sudan and Iraq are on the best of terms and they have been for many years,″ he said in an interview today. ``These Iraqis, if they had said they wanted to defect, the Sudanese would have sent them right back to Iraq as a gesture of friendship. And we all know what Saddam would do to them.″
Ms. White said three male passengers who were sick were taken to a hospital, but their illnesses were unrelated to their ordeal.
None of the freed passengers had been mistreated by the hijackers, she said. Police were questioning them in a building near the main airport terminal.
``Everyone seems calm and collected. My understanding is that no one has been hurt,″ Ms. White said.
Police were negotiating with the hijackers by telephone today. Essex police Chief Inspector Roger Grimwade said the hijackers would be arrested as soon as the incident was over.
``The hijackers have clearly committed criminal offenses and they will be arrested and dealt with,″ he said.
Dr. el-Fatih Mohamed Ali, director general of Sudan Airways, said today that security measures were being taken to remedy the situation, but he did not elaborate.
Sudan Airways Flight 150 was hijacked Monday evening about 25 minutes after it left the Sudanese capital of Khartoum heading for Amman, Jordan.
The Airbus 310 jetliner landed at Larnaca International Airport in Cyprus to refuel before being forced on to London. Cyprus aviation officials quoted one hijacker as saying he wanted political asylum in Britain.
The plane arrived at Stansted, London’s third airport 30 miles to the northeast, at 4:30 a.m. today. Armed and masked Essex police officers surrounded the aircraft as it stood in an isolated spot on the tarmac.
Stansted is Britain’s designated airport for hijackings. Unlike Heathrow and Gatwick, London’s two main airports, it is small and surrounded by open countryside. Planes continued to take off and land during the hijack ordeal.
In Amman, Jordanian Transport Minister Nassir Lawzi said the plane carried 146 Sudanese, 23 Iraqis, 14 Jordanians, 1 Saudi, 1 Syrian and 1 Palestinian. The 13 crew members were mostly Sudanese.
Glafcos Xenos, a police spokesman in the airport control tower at Larnaca, said one hijacker told Cyprus authorities ``I have a grenade and TNT (dynamite). I only want the plane refueled and to go to London.‴
Xenos said police negotiated with that man for two hours trying to persuade him to free some passengers, but he refused. Xenos also said the plane’s pilot reported multiple hijackers.
Mohammad Qassem, an aviation official in Cairo, Egypt, said the pilot told told Cairo officials the plane had been hijacked and requested permission to fly through Egyptian airspace to Rome. Moments later, the pilot said he would go to Larnaca because the plane didn’t have enough fuel.