AeroMexico Plane Hijacked in Mexico City

Alleged hijackers of an AeroMexico plane are taken into custody by federal police officers Sept. 9, 2009 in Mexico City. Police raided the plane around 3 p.m. local time, freeing the pilots and crew without firing any shots. The passengers had already been released. AP Photo/Marco Ugarte

Updated 6:16 p.m. EDT

Hijackers seized control of a commercial airplane in Mexico Wednesday and held it on the tarmac at Mexico City International Airport for more than an hour.

All of the airplane's passengers and crew were set free, unharmed, and as many as eight people were taken into custody at the end of the standoff.

AeroMexico flight 576 from Cancun landed at around 1:40 p.m. local time (2:40 p.m. EDT). The Boeing 737 was carrying 112 passengers and crew members.

The hijackers - initially identified on Mexican television as three Bolivian citizens - said they wanted to negotiate directly with Mexican President Felipe Calderon or they would blow up the plane. It was not immediately known what the hijackers were demanding. An unidentified Mexican official told the Associated Press that at least one of the hijackers was a Bolivian religious fanatic who hijacked the airplane after a divine revelation.

The hijackers themselves apparently freed the plane's passengers after about 45 minutes on the ground, but continued to hold the pilots and crew.

Shortly before 3 p.m. local time, Mexican federal police stormed the plane - which was isolated at the end of a runway in an area designed for emergencies -
freeing the pilots and crew. There were no explosions and no shots fired in the incursion.

U.S., French and Mexican citizens were among the passengers, 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.

Mexican Transportation and Communications Secretary Juan Molinar confirmed all passengers and crew were safe, but would not say how many alleged hijackers were detained or give details of their motivation.

"Various people who participated in the act have been detained and we are investigating," he said. He said there was no bomb on the airplane, although some passengers said one of the hijackers held a package that resembled an explosive device.

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.

The hijackers took control of the plane after it touched down in Mexico City, and announced almost immediately that passengers would be freed, beginning with women and children.

Freed passenger Adriana Romero said that the hijackers were well-dressed and appeared like any other passengers on board. They took control of the airplane after standing up to get their luggage out of overhead bins.

The pilots spoke to passengers over the PA system and asked for them to remain calm and remain in their seats. There was no yelling or sense of panic on the plane, Romero 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."
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