Qatar Airways plane hijacked to Saudi Arabia; hijacker surrenders

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - A man with a knife hijacked a Qatar Airways plane heading Thursday from the Persian Gulf state to Jordan with 144 people aboard and forced it to fly to Saudi Arabia, where the hijacker surrendered.

The hijacker was an Iraqi, the head of Jordan's Civil Aviation Authority and a passenger aboard the Airbus 300 said. But the unidentified man's motive in diverting the plane was still unclear.

Farouk al-Jizawi, a Jordanian passenger on Flight QR404, said passengers were told about the trouble shortly before the plane, which originated in the Qatari capital Doha, was to land in the Jordanian capital, Amman.

''We heard the pilot, his voice shaking, announcing that there was a passenger who was insisting on going to Saudi Arabia,'' al-Jizawi said. Passengers also heard the hijacker threatening the pilot, he said, noting the hijacker's accent was Iraqi.

The plane then changed course and headed to Hael, 250 miles north of the Saudi capital, Riyadh, he said.

''All the passengers were calm, despite the fact that the hijacker was carrying a large knife and claiming that he had a grenade and that he was going to blow up the plane if his demand to land in Hael was not met,'' al-Jizawi said at the airport in Hael.

Abdullah al-Manae, public relations manager for Qatar Airways, said the flight had 133 passengers and 11 crew members aboard, he said.

In Amman, Capt. Jihad Irsheid, director general of Jordan's Civil Aviation Authority, said the hijacker was an Iraqi with a ''big knife.'' The pilots ''used a special code signaling to Jordan's airport control it was hijacked,'' he said.

''In turn, we immediately notified Saudi authorities that there was a hijacked plane heading their way,'' Irsheid said.

The plane was surrounded by Saudi authorities on landing in Hael, and the hijacker surrendered, Saudi officials said. Al-Jizawi said a senior Saudi officer boarded the plane and the hijacker disembarked with him shortly afterward.

Thursday's hijacking was the first of a Qatar Airways aircraft since the carrier was formed in 1994.


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