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Friday, July 23, 1999 Published at 13:55 GMT 14:55 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Japanese hijacker kills pilot

All passengers left the plane unhurt after the mid-air ordeal

The pilot of an All Nippon Airways plane has died from stab wounds after overcoming a hijacker.

[ image:  ]
The plane returned to Tokyo, where the hijacker was arrested.

All the other 503 passengers and 14 crew on board flight ANA61 were safe.

The Boeing 747 was flying from Tokyo's Haneda airport to the northern city of Sapporo on the island of Hokkaido.

About 25 minutes after take-off, a 28-year-old Japanese man, identified by police as unemployed Yuji Nishizawa, started screaming at other passengers and cabin crew.

Armed with a long knife he barged into the cockpit and - according to one report - demanded to be taken to Yokota, a US military airbase in western Tokyo.

BBC Tokyo Correspondent Juliet Hindell: "Motive unclear"
He forced the co-pilot out of the cockpit and the plane turned back towards the capital.

One report said that the hijacker at one stage took the controls himself, but this was not confirmed by the authorities.

[ image: The pilot, Naoyuki Nagashima, died on the plane]
The pilot, Naoyuki Nagashima, died on the plane
The military airbase gave clearance for landing, but after about 20 minutes, the pilot and three other crew members overpowered the hijacker and he was restrained.

During the struggle, the pilot was repeatedly stabbed in the neck and shoulder by the hijacker. He was badly injured and died from his wounds soon after.

The pilot, Naoyuki Nagashima, 51, was pronounced dead by a doctor on board shortly after the plane landed in Tokyo one hour and 20 minutes after taking off.

Prime minister's 'regret'

Juliet Hindell reports: "The pilot was fatally stabbed and bled to death"
"It is extemely unfortunate that such an incident occured," Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi said at the parliament building in Tokyo.

"I can only express my deep regret," he added.

"We have to examine how the hijacker could enter the cockpit and what measures were then taken."

[ image: All passengers were shocked but safe]
All passengers were shocked but safe
The hijacker's motive is not yet known.

According to Japanese officials, it is the first time in Japan that someone has been killed in connection with a plane hijack.

Under Japanese law, a hijacking which results in a fatality carries a maximum sentence of the death penalty.

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