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Hijackers free passengers, keep crew hostage

Article published on the 2008-08-27 Latest update 2008-08-27 09:46 TU

A Boeing 737, like this one pictured, was hijacked in Sudan.(Photo : DR)

A Boeing 737, like this one pictured, was hijacked in Sudan.
(Photo : DR)

Sudanese hijackers who took control of a plane leaving Darfur's largest city Nyala and then landed in Libya have released almost 100 passengers. But they are still holding plane’s crew hostage on board the airliner.

The hijackers, who claim to represent the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA), a Darfur rebel group, were granted permission to land at an isolated military airstrip in southern Libya after running low on fuel.

Sudanese aviation authorities report that the hijackers originally asked to be flown to Cairo, but did not receive permission to land and then opted for Libya.

Once on the ground, they refused to speak to Libyan officials, communicating with airport officials via the plane’s pilot.

The Sundanese army attacked a camp for internally-displaced people just outside Nyala on Monday, though it is unclear whether this played a role in the hijacking.

As the hostage situation dragged on to more than 12 hours, the plane’s air-conditioning failed and several passengers fainted, the pilot told airport officials. The hijackers also refused Libyan offers of food for the passengers.

The airport’s director Khaled Saseya reports that the hijackers want permission to fly to Paris, where the SLA’s exiled leader, Abdel Wahid Mohammed Nur, resides.

Contradicting the hijacker’s claims, Nur said in a televised interview that the SLA had nothing to do with the hijacking.

There are two hijackers currently abord the plane, a Libyan official told French news agency AFP. Sun Air – the Sudanese airline that operated the flight – said that there were 95 passengers aboard the Boeing 737, along with seven crew.

Three members of a former Darfur rebel movement who signed a peace deal with the Sudanese government were passengers on the plane.

Mohammed Bashir of the Sudan Liberation Movement’s Minni Arcua Minnawi faction identified them as advisors to Minnawi, the movement’s land commissioner and a negotiator of the 2006 Darfur peace agreement.