- A passenger aircraft of Air Mauritanie, servicing an interior route, this afternoon was hijacked soon after take-off in Nouakchott. Passing Western Sahara, the plane finally landed in the Canary Islands, where Spanish police raided it and detained the hijacker. A motive is yet to be established.
The Spanish Foreign Ministry this afternoon confirmed that no one had been harmed in the raid on the hijacked Air Mauritanie Boeing 737 that had landed in a controlled way at the Las Palmas international airport on the Spanish island Gran Canaria. The many tourists at the airport had been witnesses to the massive police output.
"It has been liberated,'' said Manuel Cacho, spokesman of the Madrid Foreign Ministry. "The hijacker has been detained," he further confirmed. He added that no one had been hurt in the action - directed by the Guardia Civil police corps - and that preliminary investigations suggested only one hijacker had been involved in the incident.
Spanish security sources have confirmed that the individual probably is a man of Moroccan nationality - although this has not been officially confirmed.
The man is now held by Guardia Civil investigators in Las Palmas, where he is being interrogated over the incident. There are do far no indications over the hijacker's motives, but his alleged insistence to head to Paris have fuelled speculations that the hijacking was yet another spectacular emigration attempt. There are so far no indications of an attempted terrorist action.
The Mauritanian aircraft was hijacked only 45 minutes after takeoff from the capital, Nouakchott. The domestic flight was said to have 71 passengers and a cabin crew of eight. The pilot at first was ordered to fly to the town of Dakhla in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara to refill fuel. Local authorities there however denied the aircraft a landing permission.
With too little fuel to fly all the way to France, the hijacker soon settled for the nearby Spanish Canary Islands. Here, the aircraft was allowed to land, after Spanish police had time to organise a well-timed reception for the hijacker.
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