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The BBC's Jeremy Mcdermott
"Mystery still surrounds the motive of the hijacker"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 31 January, 2001, 05:21 GMT
Colombian hijack ends peacefully
Hijacked plane at Bogota airport
The internal flight was taken to Bogota airport
A stand-off in the Colombian capital Bogota has ended after the armed hijacker of a passenger airliner was overpowered by the plane's captain.

The hijacker is now in the custody of the Colombian authorities and police have confirmed that all 30 passengers and crew are safe and well.


He is in the hands of the authorities...it was an act of craziness

Gonzalo de Francisco, presidential spokesman
The man seized the airliner while it was on the ground in the southern town of San Vicente del Caguan, in the heart of the rebel-held demilitarised zone.

However, the BBC's Jeremy McDermott says some commentators are questioning whether some of the circumstances surrounding the hijacking are purely coincidental.

They regard the fact that the hijacking started in the safe haven of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels as the country's fragile peace process hangs in the balance as suspicious.

Stand-off

The hijacker apparently managed to evade the rebels' airport security and got on board the aircraft, forcing the pilot to fly to Bogota.


All passengers and crew are safe and unhurt. The man is a member of the FARC

General Hector Fabio Velasco, Colombian Air Force
Family members of those aboard watched horrified as the plane took off. Some attempted to run onto the runway in front of the departing plane.

"I tried to prevent the plane from taking off, but the pilot signalled to me that I shouldn't," said Adela de Altamar, whose daughter Carolina was aboard the plane.

The plane landed in the military section of Bogota airport and negotiations began.

Colombian air force commander General Hector Fabio Velasco, who entered the plane during the stand-off, said the man appeared to be a left-wing guerrilla.

His only recorded demands were to speak to a member of Amnesty International and to be put on an international flight bound for Europe.

Swift end

But just as officials were preparing for period of long and drawn out bargaining, the doors of the aircraft opened and the passengers began streaming out.

FARC guerillas
FARC guerrillas' safe haven is up for renewal
The first passengers out of the aircraft told surprised security forces that the captain had managed to wrestle the hijacker, armed with a nine millimetre pistol, to the ground.

There have been some reports that the man is a FARC deserter, but his motives for carrying out the hijacking are not clear.

However, it comes hours before the deadline for the renewal of the guerrilla safe haven at midnight on 31 January, and the government is under pressure not to grant another term for the zone.

The FARC withdrew from negotiations in November and have made no concessions in two years of talks.

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