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Fiji Indian Seizes Air New Zealand Jet, 3 Crewmen; Flight to Libya Demanded

May 19, 1987|Associated Press

SUVA, Fiji — A Fiji Indian claiming to have dynamite strapped to his body threatened today to blow up an Air New Zealand jumbo jet as it sat on the tarmac at Nadi airport, an airline official said

Flight TE24 was taken over at 7:15 a.m. local time. The official said the man later released all but three crew members of the 108 passengers and crew on the flight bound from Tokyo to Auckland. He said the hijacker had demanded that the plane be refueled and flown to Libya.

The hijacking comes less than a week after an army colonel overthrew the month-old, Indian-dominated government of Prime Minister Timoci Bavadra.

Another airline official said the hijacker demanded the release of Bavadra and his Cabinet, who were arrested Thursday after the coup.

In New Zealand, Prime Minister David Lange identified the hijacker as Ahmed Ali, a Fiji Indian and an airport employee. The passengers were mainly Japanese, Lange said.

Lange, at a hastily arranged news conference in Auckland, said the country's Special Air Services troops had been placed on full alert. New Zealand is about 150 miles south of Fiji.

Lange said the hijacker was "clearly unstable." It appears to be an act of a disturbed person acting on his own," he said.

Nadi airport, to the west of Suva, is the hub of air traffic in the South Pacific and the main arrival point for tourists into Fiji.

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