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Tuesday, 15 October, 2002, 14:56 GMT 15:56 UK
Saudis foil plane hijack
A Saudi Arabian Airline Boeing 777
A Saudi Arabian Airline jet was hijacked two years ago
An attempt by a gunman to hijack a Saudi Arabian Airlines plane has been foiled.

The airline says a passenger on a flight from Sudan to Saudi Arabia used a pistol to try to take over the plane 22 minutes into the flight - but he was overpowered by security staff.

The official Saudi press agency described the gunman as a Saudi national who was acting alone.

Hijacker of Saudi plane, October 2000
One of the hijackers of a Saudi plane two years ago
The agency says the captain immediately turned the plane around and returned to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.

The 185 passengers on board were evacuated on the inflatable slides used for emergencies. No-one was injured.

The Sudanese authorities are said to be questioning the would-be hijacker.

There is, however, some confusion as Egyptian news agencies quote Saudi sources as saying that three hijackers were involved.

Sudanese police mentioned only one.

The BBC's Paul Wood, in Cairo, says that whether one or three, it is not known what motive lay behind the hijacking.

Tensions

A Sudanese official in Khartoum said the plane was later searched for explosives but nothing was found.

The incident comes at a time of heightened tension in the Middle East.

Last week, a French oil tanker was attacked with explosives off the coast of Yemen.

Two days later an American marine was shot and killed in Kuwait by attackers suspected of links to al-Qaeda.

Several of those who carried out the 11 September attacks on the United States were Saudi nationals.

In October 2000, two young Saudi men hijacked a Boeing 777-200 after it left the city of Jeddah en route for London.

The Iraqi authorities ended the hijacking peacefully after the airliner landed in Baghdad.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Paul Wood
"A man stood up in the aisle brandished a pistol and said he was hijacking the plane"
See also:

21 Aug 02 | Americas
28 Sep 01 | Americas
17 Oct 00 | Middle East
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