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Hostage drama ends in hijacker arrest: Official

Police in Jamaica stormed a hijacked plane on Monday and arrested a lone gunman who had seized the Canadian airliner carrying 182 people during a stopover, the country's information minister told media.

world Updated: Apr 20, 2009 18:45 IST

Police in Jamaica stormed a hijacked plane on Monday and arrested a lone gunman who had seized the Canadian airliner carrying 182 people during a stopover, the country's information minister told media.

Police captured the hijacker without firing any shots and no one was injured, minister Daryl Vaz said.

"It has ended the best way it could which is no fatalities, no injuries," Vaz told CBC. "Everybody is unharmed."

"And the six crew members have actually disembarked the plane and are now in the actual airport terminal," he said.

The armed youth, identified by officials only as from a Montego Bay family, allowed all passengers and two crew to leave the chartered CanJet Boeing 737, but was still holding six crew hours later at Montego Bay's Sangster International Airport.

Canjet said the plane had been due to depart Montego Bay for Cuba with 174 passengers and eight crew when the jetliner was hijacked.

But local officials gave the number of passengers released as 157. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy.

Two crew members apparently locked themselves in the cockpit after the intruder managed to pass security and sneak into the plane shortly before midnight local time during a layover.

Vaz earlier had stressed that the hijacker's actions should not be judged "in terms of an international incident."

"His demand was to go to Cuba," the spokesman told CNN. "He definitely has had some mental challenges."

Vaz said the youth's family had been at the airport and helping in efforts to negotiate an end to the standoff, but those negotiations broke down.

"There was no conclusion to those," he said on CBC.

Vaz said 157 released passengers and two crew were taken to a local hotel, he said.

CanJet General Manager Ken Woodside said the airline had been working with Jamaican authorities on resolving the drama.

"We are providing full cooperation to security officials and the local authorities who are doing everything possible to bring this matter it a peaceful end," Woodside said during a press conference in Halifax.

Woodside said 182 people - 174 passengers and eight crew - had been scheduled to leave Montego Bay on Flight 918 before the plane was commandeered.

"All those passengers and two of our crew members have safely left the aircraft," he said.

Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding flew in to monitor the situation and offer support to passengers.

Golding told reporters his government would make a concerted effort to improve airport security in the aftermath of Sunday's breach.

As police tried to determine how the armed man had been able to penetrate security cordons and make his way onto the jet, early reports and witness accounts indicated the gunman reached Flight 918 during its layover stop in Montego Bay at about 11:30 pm on Sunday (0430 GMT Monday).

He entered the airport through a staff entrance with the help of fake identification cards, the reports said.

During the time the passengers and crew were kept hostage, one shot was fired, but it was later confirmed that no one was hurt.

Once released by the gunman, Christen Gosslin, a passenger on the flight, told his father by telephone that the gunman demanded cash from the plane's occupants.

"The guy wanted to have all their money," Gosslin's father, Alphonse, told CNN. "(My son) told his girlfriend to take all the money and just take her passport and credit card and put it in her back pocket."

Another passenger, Brenda Grenier, called her husband and said a man apparently had sneaked aboard the plane that took off from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and had taken hostages.

Grenier and her daughter were safe, her husband told CNN from his home in Nova Scotia, Canada.

CanJet Airlines Flight 918 was being operated for Transat Tours Canada.