Hijackers free Sudanese plane hostages

The hijackers of a Sudanese plane that was forced to land in Libya released all the passengers on Wednesday, a Libyan aviation authority official said.

However, the hijackers were still holding seven crew members.

The airliner was hijacked on Tuesday after leaving Sudan’s war-battered Darfur region and was forced to land in the remote Sahara desert oasis of Kufrah. Libya’s Civil Aviation Authority said 95 passengers were on the Boeing 737/200.

“We can confirm that all the plane passengers have been freed by the hijackers,” a top official from the authority told Reuters. Libya’s state news agency confirmed that successful negotiations had led to the release of all passengers.

The manager of the Sun Air airline that was flying the plane said earlier that agreement had been reached to free all the passengers. Mortada Hassan referred to only a single hijacker.

He said the hijacker had demanded food and fuel to fly to France.

Libya’s state news agency, Jana, said the hijackers had demanded fuel to fly to Paris.

The pilot told Libyan authorities the hijackers claimed to be members of a branch of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), a Darfur rebel group.

“They said they belong to SLM’s Abdel Wahed Nur, who lives in Paris. They had coordinated with him to meet them in the French capital,” Jana quoted the pilot as telling Libyan authorities.

The SLM faction led by Abdel Wahed Mohammed al-Nur strongly denied the hijackers were members of the group.

The Jana agency said Libya granted permission for the plane to land after the pilot told the authorities the plane was running out of fuel.

Three senior members of a former Darfur rebel movement, which has signed a peace accord with the government, were among the passengers, a spokesperson for their group said.

Members of the Darfur regional government were also aboard the hijacked plane, Egyptian state news agency Mena said.

The plane, belonging to Khartoum-based private airline Sun Air, took off from the South Darfur capital for Khartoum.

Egyptian authorities refused it permission to land in Egypt and the plane changed course towards Libya, Arabic TV channel al-Jazeera said.

The Darfur region has been riven by conflict since a rebellion against Khartoum’s rule broke out more than five years ago. International experts say more than 2,5-million Darfuris have been driven from their homes and 200 000 people killed. Sudan puts the death toll at about 10 000.

The insurgents are split into more than dozen factions.—Reuters



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