Tue, Apr 21, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Jamaican drama ends as police capture hijacker

HAPPY ENDING No one was harmed as police freed the final six crew members and the young ‘mentally challenged’ gunman was arrested

AFP , MONTEGO BAY, JAMAICA

Police in Jamaica stormed a hijacked plane yesterday and arrested a lone gunman who had seized the Canadian airliner carrying 182 people during a stopover, the country’s information minister told reporters.

Police captured the hijacker without firing any shots and no one was injured, minister Daryl Vaz said.

The armed youth, identified by officials only as from a Montego Bay family, allowed all the passengers and two crew members to leave the chartered CanJet Boeing 737, but was still holding six crew members hours later at Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport.

Canjet said the plane had been due to depart Montego Bay for Cuba with 174 passengers and eight crew members when the jetliner was hijacked.

But local officials gave the number of passengers released as 157. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy.

Two crew members apparently locked themselves in the cockpit after the intruder managed to pass security and sneak into the plane shortly before midnight local time during a layover.

Vaz earlier had stressed that the hijacker’s actions should not be judged “in terms of an international incident.”

“His demand was to go to Cuba,” the spokesman told CNN. “He definitely has had some mental challenges.”

Vaz said the youth’s family had been at the airport and helped with efforts to negotiate an end to the standoff, but those negotiations broke down.

The released passengers and two crew members were taken to a local hotel, he said.

As police tried to determine how the armed man had been able to penetrate security and make his way onto the jet, early reports and witness accounts indicated the gunman reached Flight 918 during its layover stop in Montego Bay at about 11:30pm on Sunday.

He entered the airport through a staff entrance with the help of fake identification cards, the reports said.

During the time the passengers and crew were kept hostage, one shot was fired, but it was later confirmed that no one was hurt.

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