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Monday, 7 February, 2000, 04:51 GMT
Stansted's hijack history

The hijacked Airbus at Stansted in 1996

Stansted has been the scene of international hijacking dramas three times in the past 25 years.

The incidents, which all ended in the surrender of the hijackers with no injury or loss of life, have established the Essex airport's record for coping with hijacks.

Stansted has been specially designated by British authorities to deal with hijackings.

The airport, Britian's third largest, has been chosen because planes can be kept well away from terminal buildings and other aircaft while negotiations are carried out.

Regular drills also ensure airport staff and security officers are prepared for dealing with hijacks.

The last test for the airport occurred in August 1996 when six Iraqi nationals took control of a Sudanese A130 Airbus and forced it to land at the airport.

The aircraft, carrying 197 passengers and crew, was hijacked during a flight between Khartoum and Amman.

UK authorities were alerted and the plane was diverted to Stansted, which is designated the UK's airport for handling hijack situations.

Armed police - supported by potential SAS back-up - were called in.

But patient talking by teams of skilled negotiators prevented the need to storm the aircraft and the passengers and crew were finally released.

The Iraqis, armed with sauce bottles disguised as grenades, knives and claiming to have TNT explosive, said they were seeking refuge from Saddam Hussein's regime.

They were jailed at the Old Bailey for between five to nine years, but were later cleared and freed by the Court of Appeal in December 1998.

In 1982, an Air Tanzania Boeing 737 carrying 99 passengers was seized on an internal flight. It was taken to Nairobi, then Jeddah in Saudi Arabia followed by Athens, before landing in Stansted.

After 26 hours of negotiations, the passengers were released and the hijackers surrendered.

And in 1975, a British Airways plane was hijacked en route from Manchester to Heathrow airport. The passengers were let out at Heathrow on the understanding that the hijacker would be flown on to Paris.

Instead the plane actually landed at Stansted where the hijacker, who used a toy pistol and imitation dynamite to seize the jet, was arrested.

Stansted has also been linked to several other major incidents.

In 1986, the airport was at the centre of an attempt to kidnap deposed Nigerian transport minister Umaru Dikko and smuggle him out of Britain.

The millionaire was found unconscious in a crate at the airport having been drugged and bound for transport to a show trial in Nigeria.

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