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Monday, 9 September, 2002, 17:06 GMT 18:06 UK
India to investigate hijack attempt
Air Seychelles Boeing 737
The airline says passengers were not in danger
The Indian Government says it will order an inquiry into the attempted hijack of an Air Seychelles aircraft flying from Bombay to the Maldives.


At no time was the life of passengers on board the aircraft threatened

David Savy, airlines chairman

But it says it first wants information about the incident from the authorities in the Maldives, an archipelago 500 kilometres (310 miles) from the Indian coast.

A man wielding a knife tried to take control of the Air Seychelles Boeing 737 on Monday before he was overpowered by cabin crew and passengers, officials say.

The man, holding an Indian passport, was arrested after the plane landed at the Maldives' capital, Male, and police in Bombay identified him as Harji Wasarni.

India's Aviation Minister, Shahnawaz Hussain, told the BBC it was not clear if the man had carried a knife past security personnel at Bombay airport or if he got hold of it within the aircraft.

The minister said nine people had been detained in Male in connection with the attempted hijack.

Anniversary jitters

The Maldives' Foreign Secretary, Ahmed Shaheed, told the Associated Press news agency that the man was seized as he "tried to enter the cockpit flashing a knife".

Map showing route between Bombay and Male

"Just a few minutes before landing, the man tried to enter the cockpit," he said.

"Some of the aircraft crew and some passengers stopped him. In the process, one of the crew members was slightly hurt."

There has been a confusing mix of reports about the incident.

Some have even suggested it was not a hijacking attempt at all, but a misunderstanding between some members of the crew and the knife-wielding man.

Indian officials say Mr Wasarni, apparently drunk, tried to force his way into the cockpit in a fit of rage after a stewardess rejected his advances.

Safety assurances

Correspondents say because of the proximity of the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, tensions have been high and security especially stringent.

Security personnel checks passenger at Bombay airport
Security has been tightened at airports

Air Seychelles said that the safety of the nearly-70 passengers, almost all of them Indian, had not been compromised.

"The man never got close to the cockpit," Executive Chairman David Savy said.

"The crew were able to disarm him immediately in the cabin and he was tied into a seat.

"At no time was the life of passengers on board the aircraft threatened."

See also:

09 Sep 02 | South Asia
02 Sep 02 | Europe
03 Oct 01 | In Depth
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