Hijackers who forced a Sudanese airliner to land in Libya have demanded fuel to fly on to Paris, Libya's state news agency Jana said on Wednesday. ( Reuters )
"The pilot relayed to the airport head that the hijackers do not want any negotiations and they have only one demand, that the plane be refueled to go to Paris," Jana said, quoting Khaled Sassia, head of the airport at Kufrah in southeast Libya.
The hijackers asked for maps to guide their flight path to Paris, it added. They turned down offers by Libyan authorities to provide the passengers with food.
"The hijackers (also) rejected the airport request that passengers who had fainted because of inadequate air conditioning in the plane be given medical treatment," the agency said.
The pilot told Libyan authorities the hijackers claimed to be members of a branch of the Sudanese Liberation Movement (SLM), a Darfur rebel group.
"They said they belong to SLM's Abdel Wahed Nur who lives in Paris. They had coordinated with him to meet them in the French capital," Jana quoted the pilot as telling Libyan authorities.
The SLM faction led by Abdel Wahed Mohammed al-Nur strongly denied the hijackers were members of the group.
"We took no part in this hijacking at all. It is completely against our aims, values and objectives. We condemn this hijacking with a strong voice," the group's spokesman Yahya al-Bashir said in Britain.
"The pilot also informed the airport director that the hijackers numbered 10 before he came back to say their number could be more than that," Jana said.
Libya's Civil Aviation Authority said 95 passengers were on the Boeing 737/200 plane.
The Jana agency said Libya granted permission for the plane to land after the pilot told the authorities the plane was running out of fuel.
Three senior members of a former Darfur rebel movement which has signed a peace accord with the government were among the passengers, a spokesman for their group said.
Mohammed Bashir of the Sudan Liberation Movement's Minni Arcua Minnawi faction identified them as an adviser to Minnawi, the movement's land commissioner, and one of the architects of the Darfur peace agreement of 2006.
"We had three senior members on the plane, and some other people. They got on and someone hijacked it," he said.
Minni Minnawi was the most influential Darfur rebel leader to sign the peace agreement, which most groups rejected.
The SLM become a partner in Sudan's national government but Minnawi left Khartoum several months ago and has been distancing himself from the government, political sources say.
Members of the Darfur regional government were also aboard the hijacked plane, the Egyptian state news agency MENA said.
The plane, belonging to Khartoum-based private airline Sunair, took off from the South Darfur capital for Khartoum.
"About half an hour after takeoff a hijacker demanded to go to Cairo as a destination," said a Sudanese Civil Aviation Authority spokesman, Abdel Hafiz Abdel Rahim.
Egyptian authorities refused it permission to land in Egypt and the plane changed course towards Libya, Arabic TV channel Al Jazeera said.
The Darfur region has been riven by conflict since a rebellion against Khartoum's rule broke out more than five years ago. International experts say more than 2.5 million Darfuris have been driven from their homes and 200,000 people killed. Sudan puts the death toll at about 10,000.
The insurgents are split into more than dozen factions.