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Egyptian Airliner Is Hijacked

December 9, 1998

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Libyan passengers rioted aboard a chartered Egyptian airliner today and demanded that the plane fly to Libya in violation of U.N. sanctions, police said. But the pilot tricked them and landed in neighboring Tunisia.

The plane, an MD-90, was hijacked after take-off from San`a, the capital of Yemen, en route to Tunis, Tunisia.

None of the passengers or crew was reported injured, and it was unclear if the hijackers had weapons or took over the plane by force of numbers.

The plane landed in Jerba, a Tunisian island about 50 miles from Libya’s northwest border, an airport official in Jerba said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The pilot contacted Egyptian authorities by radio and reported a large number of Libyan passengers had rioted and were demanding that he fly to Libya’s capital, Tripoli, in violation of a U.N. ban on international flights to the country, an Egyptian police official said.

About 150 Libyans were aboard the aircraft, which was chartered by a private Egyptian company for a flight by Libyan businessmen, a Cairo airport official said.

Police said the aircraft itself belongs to EgyptAir, the national carrier, and that Tunisian and Yemeni passengers also were aboard.

Both the Egyptian police and Cairo airport officials spoke on customary condition of anonymity.

Libya has frequently violated the U.N. flight ban, which was adopted in 1992 to force Libya to turn over two suspects wanted for the bombing of a Pan Am jet over Scotland in 1988.

The police official said the pilot was told by Egyptian authorities that he could fly to Libya under duress without violating sanctions, but the pilot apparently tricked the hijackers and landed in Jerba.

The hijackers were refusing to speak to authorities, the police official said. It was unclear if they were still on the plane.

Jerba, an island 210 miles south of the capital Tunis, is frequently used as a transit point for travelers going on to Libya by land.

The U.N. flight ban was adopted in 1992 to force Libya to turn over two suspects wanted in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people.

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