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Hijackers of Sudanese Plane Surrender in Libya


Libyan officials say hijackers who took over a Sudanese plane and forced it to land in Libya have now surrendered. The officials told reporters the hijackers gave themselves up Wednesday, hours after releasing at least 87 of the plane's passengers. Derek Kilner has more from VOA's East Africa bureau in Nairobi.

The plane took off from the town of Nyala in southern Darfur on Tuesday and was scheduled to travel to the capital Khartoum. Hijackers attempted to divert the plane to Cairo, but Egypt refused to allow the plane to land. The plane then landed in southeastern Libya, near the border with Sudan, after the pilot said the craft was running low on fuel.

The director of the airport in Libya said the hijackers had asked for fuel and flight maps to travel to France. The director also said the hijackers claimed to belong to a faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement rebel group headed by Abdul Wahid al-Nur, who currently lives in Paris.

The rebels, however, have denied any involvement. Yahia el Bashir, a spokesman for the rebel faction spoke to VOA from London. "Our movement and our leadership, Abdul Wahid al Nur, are not involved in this hijacking of the plane. This is against our principles and our behavior," he said.

The chief of protocol for Sudan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ali Yussuf, described the hijacking as a "terrorist act."

"It is not the best way of expressing your case or your cause. I think it just reflects that you are acting in an illegal way and that is a terrorist act," he said.

He said the Sudanese government was in contact with the governments of both Libya and France.

Another faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement, led by Minni Minawi, said three high-ranking members were aboard the hijacked flight. Minawi joined the government following a peace agreement in 2006, but has had strained relations with Khartoum in recent months.

Meanwhile, not far from Nyala, where the flight originated, United Nations peacekeepers continued to investigate clashes on Monday involving government security forces in the Kalma camp for displaced persons.

A spokesman for the peacekeeping mission said 33 bodies had been recovered, but that there could be more. The government says it was searching for weapons and criminals in the camp. Rebel groups say the government is trying to drive residents out of the camp.

El Bashir, the rebel representative in London, said the government was preparing to raid the camp again.

"The Sudanese government has surrounded Kalma camp," he said. "They are putting more and more heavy military equipment and also they made a checkpoint. Not any way for civilians going out and coming in to camps, refusing also to let other independent investigators enter the camp.

The conflict in Darfur has killed over 200,000 people since 2003, according to most international estimates, and displaced some 2.5 million. The Sudanese government says no more than 10,000 people have been killed.

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