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Ethiopian Plane Crashes in Comoros Islands, No Word on Casualties

November 23, 1996

MORONI, Comoros Islands (AP) _ An Ethiopian airliner believed to have been hijacked with 178 passengers aboard crashed today on a beach of the Comoros Islands in the Indian Ocean, Radio Comoros reported.

It was not immediately known whether there were any casualties.

A resident of Moroni, the capital of the island group, told The Associated Press by telephone that state radio reported the crash occurred at Mitsamiuti beach on the north side of Grande Comore Island after midday.

Donies Pornage, a Swiss resident of the island, said the radio report called for all hospitals to prepare to treat survivors.

Israel radio said the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 767 plunged into the water off Grande Comore Island, splitting into at least two parts. It said the plane may have tried to make an emergency landing after running out of fuel and that a search for survivors was underway on the island nation between Madagascar and Mozambique.

Israel radio reported earlier today that the plane was hijacked by 11 Ethiopians in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. The control tower at Nairobi’s airport said it happened before the plane entered Kenyan air space.

Israel radio reporter Mickey Gourdis monitored transmissions from the plane and the air traffic control tower in Addis Ababa.

Flight 661 had been route from Bombay, India, to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, said T.P. Venkatnarayan, Bombay duty officer for Air-India, which handles Ethiopian Airlines flights in India.

Gourdis said the hijackers demanded to be flown to Australia and that the plane was en route to the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius to refuel when it crashed near Grand Comore off the coast of Mozambique.

An airport spokesman in the Comoros Islands said he received a message about the airplane from Tanzania. ``But we have no news on it,″ said Mamoune Chakira, spokesman for the Hayaya International Airport in Moroni.

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