In a scene reminiscent of the heroism of United Flight 93 on 9/11, crew and passengers of an Air Mauritania jet beat an armed hijacker in a rescue plot hatched by the captain.
After realizing the hijacker, 32-year-old Mohamed Abderraman, did not speak French, the pilot flying the Boeing 737 told passengers over the intercom system he planned to make their landing in the Spanish Canary Islands especially rough in an attempt to knock down the hijacker. Then, he instructed, male passengers and crew should rush the cockpit and overwhelm the man.
Officials said Abderraman seized the jet soon after take-off yesterday from the Mauritanian capital, Nouakchott, demanding to be flown to France, the BBC reported.
The hijacker managed to board the plane in the northern African nation with two loaded handguns, and one report said that during the hijack, he held a gun to the head of the pilot, Ahmedou Mohamed Lemine.
“The pilot and his colleagues decided to abruptly apply brakes on landing to throw off-balance the hijacker, who was hurled to the floor by the jerk and was quickly overpowered before being handed over to the Spanish police force,” a Mauritanian official told Agence France-Presse.
Flight attendants threw boiling water at the hijacker and about 10 people jumped him, according to one report.
The plane returned home today to a heroes’ welcome.
The AP said the hijacking alarmed Spanish officials because a trial of 29 people accused in the Madrid terrorist bombings of 2004 had begun the same day in Madrid.
Officials insisted, however, Abdurrahman’s motives were political asylum, not terrorism.
Passengers said they were afraid, however, they had been hijacked by jihadists.
“We thought it was people from al-Qaida or the Algerian GSPC who were going to cut our throats,” said 45-year-old Aicha Mint Sidi.
The hijacker, reportedly standing in the middle aisle, fell to the floor when the pilot hit the brakes, dropping one of his two pistols.
Abdurrahman then was hit in his face and chest with boiling water from a coffee machine before being overwhelmed.
Officials said the plane’s abrupt braking slightly injured about 20 people.
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