Religious Fanatic on Divine Mission Blamed for Hijacking

Mexican official says Bolivian wanted to warn president about 9/9/09.

September 9, 2009, 3:52 PM

Sept. 09, 2009 — -- The hijacker of a jetliner in Mexico was a religious fanatic who said he was on a divine mission when he took over the plane today, a Mexican government official said.

The Bolivian suspect, Jose Mar Flores, 44, said that he hijacked the plane to warn Mexican President Felipe Calderon that an earthquake was coming because today's date, 9-9-09, is the satanic number 666 turned upside down, Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna said.

Flores allegedly used a fake bomb to take over the Aeromexico jet in Cancun. He had it fly to Mexico City, its planned destination, and after ordering the pilot to circle the city seven times, allowed it to land.

All 104 passengers on board were released unhurt, and the incident came to a quick end when Mexican troops stormed the plane.

The nationalities of the passengers on board were not yet disclosed.

It appeared that at least five hijackers were taken into custody and escorted away from the plane, but Luna later said there was only one hijacker, Flores.

Before the troops rushed the hijackers aboard the Aeromexico jet, a Boeing 737, passengers were seen being led off the plane and ordered to sit on the tarmac. The plane had landed in Mexico City after a short flight from Cancun.

In preparation for the rescue, Mexican troops surrounded the plane on the tarmac.

Passengers said they did not realize the plane had been hijacked until it landed.

"We traveled from Cancun without knowing what was happening. We were all very relaxed. No one was alarmed. We were asked by crew members to move from the back to the front of the plane just before leaving the plane. I only saw one hijacker, an adult man with a nice watch who was standing all the time during the flight checking his back constantly. We would have never imagined that the plane had been hijacked. We realized that when we landed," Adriana Romero told local television station TV Azteca.

Romero said the passengers were eventually told that there were at least two hijackers.

"We were told there were two hijackers, that one of them was in first class and the other one in coach. I only saw one of them, the one on coach," she said. "It was all very quiet. The crew asked us to remain quiet, that they were negotiating with hijackers. There were children and adults in the plane, it was full."

Luna's statement confirmed initial Mexican news media reports that the hijackers were Bolivian citizens who were demanding to talk with Calderon.

The hijackers forced the pilot to circle the airport seven times before landing, and according to Mexican media, said they would detonate a bomb if a meeting with Calderon was not arranged.

Luna said the supposed bomb was a fake.

All Passengers Safe in Mexican Hijacking

Transport Secretary Juan Molinar told Mexican press that all the passangers were safely removed from the plane and the hijackers did not have a bomb.

The president was at the airport's presidential hangar for a previously planned trip to the city of Campeche. The president will make a decision if he'll go to Campeche or stay to deal with this situation.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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