Haitian Soldiers Force Way On New York-Bound Jetliner
NEW YORK (AP) _ Three Haitian soldiers armed with rifles and seeking political asylum forced their way onto an American Airlines jetliner in Haiti Saturday and flew to New York, officials said. They were arrested when the plane landed at Kennedy Airport.
No one was injured in the incident, said American Airlines spokesman Jim Brown. The three men had surrendered their weapons before the airplane left Port-au-Prince.
Airport security and the FBI were waiting when the plane, with 224 passengers and a crew of nine, arrived about 8:15 p.m in New York. The three men were arrested without incident, Brown said.
″They intended no harm to anyone, there was no threat of violence,″ said James Fox, director of the FBI’s New York office. ″They just said they wanted to leave Haiti for New York City.″
The men were identified as Edouine Noel, 24; Nicolas Mormil, 23; and Jean Charlston Beinamie, 23, said FBI spokesman Chris Favo. All three were taken to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan pending a hearing Monday on their request for asylum, he said.
They men were regular army personnel who did not want to be part of the recent coup in Haiti, said Port Authority Detective William Ahrens.
American Airlines Flight 658 took off at 4:40 p.m. after the three soldiers slipped under a wire fence that surrounds Port-au-Prince International Airport and ran aboard the plane, airport employees said.
Radio Haiti Inter said the plane’s captain agreed to fly the three men to New York, the plane’s destination. The station said the men made no political statements.
Eric Boucicault, director of American Airlines in Haiti, said ″three soldiers on duty entered at the end of the line of passengers with a determined air. We could not refuse their entrance. As a result of negotiation, they deposited all their arms, pistols and rifles, in the pilot’s cabin.
″Now they are seated calmly in their seats, and normal service is being maintained,″ he said before the airplane landed in New York.
Flight 658 runs daily between New York and the capital city of Port-au- Prince , where it arrives about 2 p.m. and leaves after 4 p.m.
″The pilot did a super job,″ said passenger Cameron Smith of Boston. ″He negotiated a deal with them. He put them up in first class and tended to them the rest of the way.″
Other passengers were not immediately let off the plane as authorities questioned them. The approximately 200 people who were waiting for the flight’s arrival said they were not told about the incident until the plane landed.
″They were pointing M-16′s already cocked,″ said the Rev. Eugene Bryant, a Brooklyn minister who performed missionary work in Haiti. ″It was all in French. We were just watching.″
Many people refused to give their names for fear of retaliation by the new Haitian regime.
″I went there for two weeks. It was the scariest two weeks of my life,″ said one woman passenger, declining to give her name. ″I thought I was going to get a break, but the plane ride was no break.″
Haiti has been beset by turmoil in recent weeks.
A Sept. 17 coup by lower-ranking soldiers led to the ouster of Lt. Gen. Henry Namphy. Lt. Gen. Prosper Avril was installed as president and the coup triggered a huge military uprising that led to the ouster of military commanders loyal to Namphy and the Duvalier family dictatorship that preceded him.