Alitalia hijacker gives himself up

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The Independent Online

A man attempted to hijack an Alitalia plane carrying at least 57 passengers today, but gave himself up after the jet landed in the southern French city of Lyon, officials said.

A man attempted to hijack an Alitalia plane carrying at least 57 passengers today, but gave himself up after the jet landed in the southern French city of Lyon, officials said.

Authorities in Lyon, France's second-largest city, said all passengers had gotten off the plane and that the incident was over. Earlier, one official spoke of "a terrorist on board."

The Italian carrier Alitalia said in a statement that an MD–80 jet was en route to Paris from Bologna when it was diverted to Lyon.

"The hijacking has ended without any consequence," Alitalia said, giving no other details.

A spokesperson for the National Police in Paris said "the incident was over, without injuries and that a man had given himself up."

Local authorities in Lyon said 67 passengers and seven crew members were on board. However, Alitalia said in a statement that 57 passengers were on board, and it was unclear why there was a discrepancy.

Enzo Bianco, head of the Italian parliamentary committee on secret services, said the suspect had been "disarmed and captured," the Italian news agency Ap.Biscom reported.

"This makes us breathe a sigh of relief at the help from the French police who captured this sole hijacker," he said.

Police said the plane was flying over Switzerland when the suspect got out of his seat, brandished a rectangular box that he claimed was a bomb and threatened to blow up the plane.

According to police, the man then declared: "I belong an al–Qaida network, I want to make a declaration to the press."

It was unclear whether he forced the plane to land in Lyon or whether the pilot chose to land there. But police sources said there was no bomb on board.

The suspect was arrested by a French SWAT team at the Lyon airport.

An official of the Enac civil aviation agency, Loredana Rosati, said the suspect was Italian.

The diversion of the plane comes as France has been on the lookout for terrorist actions.

French police have arrested at least 18 people in recent days suspected of being involved in terrorist groups, and Defense Minister Michele Alliot–Marie said in an interview published this week that France was a leading target of terrorist groups.

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