Sudan Plane Hijacker Surrenders in Chad

The Associated Press
Wednesday, January 24, 2007; 8:26 AM

N'DJAMENA, Chad -- A hijacker seized a Sudanese passenger plane carrying 103 people on Wednesday and forced the pilot at gunpoint to fly to the Chadian capital, N'Djamena, where he surrendered, officials said.

Saif Omer, Air West airline's managing director, said the man walked out of the Boeing 737 after it landed in Chad and said he wanted asylum in Britain. No one was injured, Omer said.

"The passengers were unaware that the plane had been hijacked," Omer told The Associated Press.

The hijacker entered the cockpit a half-hour after takeoff and put a pistol to the pilot's head, demanding to go to London, said Chad's infrastructure minister, Adoum Younousmi. When the captain told him there was not enough fuel, the hijacker agreed to land in Chad, where he surrendered.

He made no threats against the passengers, who were Sudanese except for a Briton and an Italian military attache.

Omer identified the hijacker as Mohamed Abdu Altif, 26, of El Fasher, capital of North Darfur state and headquarters for the African Union force trying to pacify Darfur.

Air West flight 612 had been headed from Khartoum to the western city of El Fasher, capital of North Darfur state and headquarters for the African Union force trying to pacify Darfur.

"We don't know where the security breach occurred," said an Air West official on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Khartoum-based Air West is one of 95 airlines barred from landing at European airports because of its safety record. It is a privately owned company operating domestic passenger services and international cargo charters.

The hijacking is likely to further complicate strained relations between Chad and Sudan. The neighboring countries trade accusations of supporting each other's rebels, who have mounted increasingly daring attacks on each side of the border.

Chad's infrastructure minister, Younousmi, said the hijacker would be brought to trial: "He is a terrorist and we will take him to court."

Sudanese officials did not immediately comment.

Hundreds of thousands of Darfur's 2.5 million refugees have fled across the border to Chad, where they have increasingly come under attack.


Associated Press writers Alfred de Montesquiou and Mohamed Osman in Khartoum, Sudan, and Anthony Mitchell in Nairobi, Kenya, contributed to this report.

© 2007 The Associated Press