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Last Updated: Monday, 8 March, 2004, 20:06 GMT
Zimbabwe 'seizes US cargo plane'
TV footage of US-registered plane detained by Zimbabwe
The plane has been moved to a Zimbabwean military base
A US-registered cargo plane with 64 suspected mercenaries on board has been impounded in Harare, Zimbabwe says.

The Boeing 727-100 was held on Sunday after it "made a false declaration of its cargo and crew," Zimbabwe Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi said.

"Mercenaries" of various nationalities and "military materiel" were on board, he told reporters.

The US State Department said it had no indication the plane was connected to the US government.

Mr Mohadi said the plane was detained at 1930 (1730GMT) on Sunday at Harare International Airport.

An investigation was under way to establish the men's identities and their "ultimate mission," he said.

South African crisps

Western journalists were unable to see the plane as Mr Mohadi said it had been moved to a military base.

But state-run television broadcast pictures of a white plane with the tail number N4610.

TV footage of equipment found in the US-registered plane detained by Zimbabwe
The equipment included bolt cutters, sledgehammers and army boots

According to US Federal Aviation Administration records, N4610 is a 727 registered to Dodson Aviation Inc. based in Ottawa, Kansas.

However the firm told news agencies it had sold the aircraft about a week ago to an African company called Logo Ltd.

Footage of the plane shown on Zimbabwean TV showed military personnel displaying to the camera some of the equipment on board.

It included sledgehammers, bolt cutters, walkie-talkies, loudhailers, sleeping bags and heavy duty boots.

There was also what appeared to be a small canister of mace spray and a packet of crisps of South African origin - but no weapons.

It was not immediately clear what had happened to those on board the plane.

Mr Mohadi said a full statement would be released later.

The BBC's Alastair Leithead
"The Zimbabwean authorities said there was a large amount of military equipment on board"

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