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1996: Hijacked jet crashes into sea
A hijacked passenger jet has crashed into the Indian Ocean after running out of fuel.

Out of the 175 passengers and crew on board at least 100 people were killed when Flight ET961 broke up during an emergency landing 1,640 feet (500 metres) from a holiday beach on the Comoro Islands.

Tourists and islanders were able to reach the plane minutes after the impact and about 50 people are believed to have been rescued alive from the wreckage, including two of the suspected hijackers.

The Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 767 had been flying from Addis Ababa to Nairobi when it was hijacked by three men at 0820 GMT, four hours before it was forced to ditch into the sea.

According to Ethiopian aviation officials, they ordered the pilot to fly to Australia. He persuaded the men he needed to refuel at Hahaya Airport, 15 miles from the scene of the accident.

The sea was rough and the plane just broke up on impact
Hotel manager Bruce Thompson

Witnesses of the plane's last seconds off the northern tip of Grand Comore - the largest of the four islands in the Comoro archipelago - included staff and guests at the Galawa Beach hotel.

"It certainly was a crash landing, not a nose dive, but the sea was rough and the plane just broke up on impact - the fuselage broke into three pieces," said hotel manager Bruce Thompson.

A party of 20 French doctors were among the first to reach the scene in boats.

The survivors - including the captain and his co-pilot - were taken to local hospitals, and fewer than 20 are reported to be seriously hurt.

The motive of the hijackers remains unclear, but the two suspects, who were identified by the pilot, are under arrest on the island.

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Scene from the plane crash
Tourists and islanders were able to reach the plane minutes after impact



In Context
One hundred and twenty-five people died in the crash, making it one of the deadliest hijackings in aviation history.

The dead included Mohamed Amin, a photo journalist from Kenya, who had a reputation as one of Africa's leading photographers. His film reports of the famine in Ethiopia helped draw attention to the crisis. He was also known as a top motorsport photographer.

The two men initially arrested were later released after being cleared by the co-pilot, who did not recognise them as the attackers.

Two weeks later police identified the hijackers as two unemployed graduates and a nurse - all Ethiopians - who were seeking political asylum in Australia.

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