Sudanese plane hijacked from Darfur, lands in Libya
Posted Tuesday, August 26 2008 at 21:31
- TV channel Al Jazeera said 87 passengers were on the plane, which belonged to a private local operator.
- Plane had been bound for Khartoum from Nyala, the capital of South Darfur.
- Three senior members of a former Darfur rebel group were aboard the hijacked plane, a spokesman said.
- Darfur region has been a conflict area since a rebellion against Khartoum's rule broke out more than five years ago.
KHARTOUM, Tuesday - A Sudanese passenger plane was hijacked on Tuesday after leaving war-torn Darfur and has been forced to land in Libya, Arab media and Libyan authorities said.
Arabic satellite TV channel Al Jazeera said 87 passengers were on the plane, which belonged to a private local operator.
Three senior members of a former Darfur rebel movement which has signed a peace accord with the government were among the passengers, a spokesman for the group told Reuters.
The plane had been bound for Khartoum from Nyala, the capital of South Darfur. After it was commandeered, Egyptian authorities denied it permission to land and the plane changed course towards Libya, Al Jazeera said.
A spokesman for the Sudanese Civil Aviation Authority, Abdel Hafiz Abdel Rahim, said: "A plane has been hijacked and is thought to be in Libya."
Libya's Civil Aviation Authority confirmed the plane had landed at Kufrah airport, an oasis town in the country's southeast, Libya's state news agency Jana reported.
The plane belonged to Sunair, a Khartoum-based private airline, an aviation source said.
The Egyptian state news agency MENA quoted Sunair as saying four men hijacked the plane.
The Darfur region has been a conflict area 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 in the violence. Sudan puts the death toll at about 10,000.
Insurgents are split into more than dozen factions.
Three senior members of a former Darfur rebel group were aboard the hijacked plane, a spokesman said.
Mohammed Bashir of the Sudan Liberation Movement's Minni Arcua Minnawi faction identified them as an adviser to Minnawi, the movement's land commissioner, and one of the architects of the Darfur peace agreement of 2006.
"We had three senior members on the plane, and some other people. They got on and someone hijacked it," he said.
A source close to the Sudanese civil aviation authorities said there was a scuffle at Nyala airport as the SLM group was boarding. "They tried to get on with weapons," said the source, who asked not to be named.
Minni Minnawi was the most influential Darfur rebel leader to sign the peace agreement. Most groups rejected it.
After the peace agreement the SLM become a partner in the national government in Khartoum, along with the dominant National Congress and former southern rebels.