Belarus foils attempt to ‘hijack plane’

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Minsk -

Belarus said on Tuesday it had arrested a Georgian citizen after he threatened to blow up a passenger jet if it was not diverted from Minsk to a destination in Europe.

“A passenger on board sent a note to the captain of the aircraft threatening to blow up the airliner and demanding to change course for a European country,” Belarus' security agency, which is still known by its Soviet acronym KGB, said in a statement.

The pilot managed to land the plane, which was carrying 32 passengers and four crew members, at its intended destination, the Belarussian capital Minsk, the KGB said. The flight originated in the Georgian city of Kutaisi.

The plane was then boarded by anti-terrorism agents who entered into talks with the alleged would-be hijacker.

“As a result of the negotiations the criminal agreed to disembark from the aircraft and... voluntarily surrendered to KGB officials,” the security agency said.

All passengers and crew then swiftly left the plane and an investigation was opened into the detained passenger - a Georgian citizen born in 1973 - on suspicion of attempting to hijack an aircraft, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of seven years in jail.

No further details were given about the motives of the suspect or where he wanted the plane to fly to.

Belarus, a former Soviet republic ruled by authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko, is often referred to as “Europe's last dictatorship.” - Sapa-AFP


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