Wednesday, September 9, 2009

WWJD? Hijack a plane on 9-9-09?

MEXICO CITY (CNN) -- A 44-year-old Bolivian drug addict and alcoholic who describes himself as a church minister was the sole person responsible for the brief hijacking Wednesday of a commercial jetliner, a Mexican official said.

The suspect -- Josmar Flores Pereira -- told authorities he hijacked the Boeing 737 jet because the date -- September 9, 2009, or 9/9/9, and 666 reversed -- held some significance for him, said Genaro Garcia Luna, the secretary for public safety.

"He said that because of that divine reference he wanted to alert Mexico City of an earthquake," Garcia told reporters.

"Christ is coming soon," he told reporters before being escorted off.

The hijacker took control of Aeromexico Flight 576 as the jet it flew from the resort town of Cancun, telling a flight attendant he was one of three hijackers, Garcia said. Watch CNN's Rick Sanchez report on the hijacking as it unfolded »

He said a cardboard box he had contained a bomb, and threatened to blow it up if his demand to speak to President Felipe Calderon was not met, Garcia said.

Calderon was in the presidential hangar in the airport preparing to depart when the incident began, leading him to cancel his planned flight, CNN affiliate TV Azteca reported.

The hijacking apparently went unnoticed by many of those aboard the plane, which landed five minutes ahead of scheduled and was moved to a remote area of the airport. Passengers, clutching their hand luggage, walked from the plane and down a moveable stairway onto the tarmac, where they got into buses.

Moments later, the suspect -- and several other people -- were taken into custody, TV Azteca said. The package turned out not to contain explosives, the station said.

Garcia said the other people who were detained turned out not to be involved. Watch Aeromexico passengers being released »

A U.S. law enforcement official familiar with the situation said preliminary information indicated there were 112 passengers aboard the plane, all from Mexico, the United States or France.

"The flight was very tranquil," said Marisa Lopez, a passenger who was seated in Row 24 with her baby.

She said the only thing that caught her attention was the large number of emergency vehicles that were lined up along the tarmac when they arrived, five minutes ahead of schedule.

"Really, it was all very peaceful," she said. "We saw nothing."

Others were more aware of what was going on.

"It was very difficult, but the pilot told us to remain calm," said another passenger, who added that many of the passengers were families returning from vacation in Cancun.

The woman said the hijacker never spoke to them during the 45 minutes they were held.

"We were scared," said another woman. "But it seemed like things got under control when we came down. We were immediately surrounded, when we landed, by federal police."

The woman, who had been seated in the middle of the plane, said the incident occurred in the front of the plane. It began at 1:40 p.m. as Flight 576 was arriving in Mexico City and ended more than an hour later, slightly before 3 p


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