28 Aug 2008

Sudanese plane hijackers surrender

7:56 am on 28 August 2008

Two hijackers of a Sudanese plane flown to Libya have given themselves up in the desert town of Kufra.

The surrender comes almost 24 hours after they seized the plane, shortly after it left Nyala in Darfur.

The crew have also been freed - earlier all 95 passengers on board the Sun Air Boeing 737 had been released.

There are some reports that the hijackers were members of a Darfur rebel group but this was strongly denied by the group's leader.

"The hijackers surrendered without any violence and the crew are safe and sound," a Libyan official said, according to the AFP news agency.

A Sudanese diplomat in Kufra told the AP news agency that the two men were taken into the airport building, looking exhausted. Mohammed al-Balla Othman said the men had requested asylum in Libya. Sudan had earlier demanded they be extradited.

The man had earlier demanded fuel to fly to France and one official said they wanted to be given refugee status there.

The BBC reports a plane is being prepared to transport the freed passengers to Khartoum.

The plane had been on its way to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, on Tuesday, when the men took control. It initially tried to land in Cairo, Egypt, where it was denied permission to land.

According to the director of Kufra airport, who was quoted by Libyan media, the hijackers told the pilot they were from the rebel Sudanese Liberation Army of Abdel Wahid Mohammed Nur.

Mr Nur, who is based in Paris, has strongly denied any involvement in the hijacking.

Three members of a different SLA faction, led by Minni Minawi, were on the plane. A spokesman for this faction, the only one to sign a 2006 peace deal with the government, has also denied any involvement in the hijacking.