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Hijacking Drama in Germany Ends After 2 Hours - 2003-01-05

A two hour aerial drama has ended over Frankfurt, Germany. Authorities said an armed man who stole a light plane and threatened to crash it into the European Central Bank building has landed at the city's airport and has been arrested.

A German air traffic control spokesman said the drama began when the single-engine plane was stolen from Frankfurt's Babenhausen airfield and flew to downtown Frankfurt.

Frankfurt airport was closed down, tall buildings in the city were evacuated, streets in the downtown area were cleared, and military aircraft patrolled the sky as the plane circled for more than two hours before landing.

In a call from the plane to a television station the man said he did not want to hurt anyone, but intended to commit suicide once his fuel ran out. The man said he wanted to draw attention to a female astronaut who died in the explosion of the U.S. space shuttle Challenger in January 1986.

The man did not say why he had targeted the European Central Bank that sets interest rates for 12 countries. The plane was flying just a few-hundred meters from the ground, and at one point made a close pass at a building that houses offices of the Reuters news agency and the Goldman Sachs financial company. Frankfurt airport, the largest in continental Europe, interrupted flights while the plane was in the air. The sight of the small plane recalled images of the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

It also brought to mind an incident last April in which a small Piper aircraft crashed into Pirelli skyscraper in Milan. Three people, including the pilot, died.