Passengers Freed From Hijacked Plane In Mexico

A hijacked Aeromexico plane sits on the tarmac at Mexico City's international airport on Wednesday. (AP)
A hijacked Aeromexico plane sits on the tarmac at Mexico City's international airport on Wednesday. (AP)

A jetliner from the beach resort of Cancun was briefly hijacked as it landed in Mexico City on Wednesday. The hijackers released all passengers shortly before federal police stormed the plane, and the crew emerged unharmed moments later.

Police, who did not fire a single shot, led as many as eight handcuffed men away from the airplane, which was isolated at the end of a runway in an area designed for emergencies. The hijackers' motive was unclear, though Mexican news media initially identified them as Bolivians demanding to speak with Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

U.S., French and Mexican citizens were among the 112 passengers and crew on Aeromexico Flight 576, according to a U.S. official who had been briefed on the situation. The official was not authorized to discuss the case and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Mexico's transportation and communications secretary, Juan Molinar, said there was no bomb on the airplane, although some passengers said one of the hijackers held a package that resembled an explosive device, and a bomb squad was later seen near the airplane.

He did not immediately identify the hijackers or speculate on their motive.

"Various people who participated in the act have been detained and we are investigating," Molinar said.

The attorney general's office said it was opening an investigation into terrorism and kidnapping but did not specify how many people could be charged.

Mexican news media initially reported the hijackers were Bolivian, but Bolivia's ambassador to Mexico, Jorge Mancilla, said Mexican authorities had no evidence that was the case. Mancilla said sources told him they could be Colombian or Venezuelan. Several passengers told reporters they did not notice a non-Mexican accent.

Passenger Rocio Garcia told the Televisa network that the pilot made an announcement after landing in Mexico City that the airplane was being hijacked. Passengers said the hijackers never communicated with them directly.

"These were scary moments," she said.

She said she saw one of the hijackers whom she described as a well-dressed, older man.

"He looked fine, like a normal passenger," she said.

Passenger Daniel Hernandez said he saw a hijacker carrying a Bible.

The most recent hijacking in the Americas occurred on April 19, when a man with a handgun tried to commandeer a Canadian jetliner from Jamaica. The standoff ended before takeoff at Montego Bay's airport when military commandos burst onto the plane and disarmed the man, who was described as "mentally challenged."

This program aired on September 9, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.


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