Source Pravda.Ru

Colombian plane with 25 aboard hijacked

A Colombian airliner with 25 people aboard, including a congressman, has been hijacked by two men with grenades, authorities said Monday.

The Aires airlines flight left the southern city of Florencia for a flight to Bogota Monday when the hijackers commandeered it, said Gen. Edgar Lesmez, the chief of the Colombian Air Force. The plane landed in Bogota, but at a military airfield next to the capital's civilian El Dorado Airport.

Authorities were in contact with the hijackers, Lesmez said. The twin-propeller plane was believed to be carrying 20 passengers and five crew. The hostages include congressman Antonio Serrano, his assistant, Consuelo Barragan, told RCN television.

"We're beginning our initial contacts with these hijackers to see if there is a solution," Lesmez said. The hijackers said they wanted to speak with a representative of a human rights organization, a priest and a delegate from the Colombian attorney general's office, Lesmez told reporters.

The hijackers, who used the plane's radio to contact the air traffic control tower, did not make any immediate demands, said Martin Gonzalez, spokesman for Colombia's Civil Aviation authority.

Gen. Alberto Ruiz, chief of operations of the Colombian National Police, said the hijackers did not appear to belong to any of Colombia's illegal armed groups.

"They seem to be common citizens," Ruiz told journalists.

Calls to the airline and to the Civil Aviation authority went unanswered.

This was the second time an Aires flight from Florencia to Bogota has been hijacked.

In February 2002, members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, forced an Aires airliner to land on a rural highway and kidnapped a Colombian senator on board. Sen. Jorge Gechen Turbay, president of the Senate's peace commission, remains a FARC hostage. The other passengers and the crew were left on the plane.

The hijacking led the government to cancel peace talks with the FARC, which has been waging war in this Andean nation for four decades AP reported.

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