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Cuban Military Officer Hijacks Plane to Guantanamo Bay

July 8, 1996

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Cuban military officer hijacked a plane carrying 16 people, forcing it to fly to the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Pentagon said today.

The man identified as the hijacker, Lt. Col. Jose Fernandez Pupo, probably fired his weapon during the hijacking of the Cuban airliner but no one was injured, a U.S. official said. After the plane was deemed suitable to continue the flight, it took off from the base with the remaining passengers and crew.

Pupo was being interviewed by officials from the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Pentagon spokesman Joe March said. A Navy spokesman in Norfolk said Pupo asked for political asylum.

The incident occurred around 3 p.m. EDT on Sunday after the flight left Santiago in eastern Cuba.

Officials declined to say whether the hijacker would be returned to Cuba proper but stressed that the United States is strongly opposed to airplane hijackings.

The plane was scheduled to fly from Santiago to Guantanamo, a city located near the naval base.

The United States and Cuba signed an anti-hijacking agreement in 1973, but Cuba allowed it to lapse after a bomb exploded aboard a Cuban plane flying over the Caribbean in 1976, killing all 73 passengers aboard.

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