Friday, 8 February 2008

Somali woman "Hijacks" Air NZ Plane

33 year-old Somali woman, Asha ali Abdille, has been charged with hijacking and 3 counts of assault, after attacking two pilots and a passenger, during an Air New Zealand Link flight from Blenheim to Christchurch this morning.

The small Air NZ/Eagle Air Jetstream J32 plane had just 7 passengers onboard, and has no barrier between the two rows of passengers and the cockpit.

Pilots sent out an emergency call at 7.40am after the woman (seated in seat 1A) attacked one of the pilots with a knife, slashing his hand.

It's alleged the woman also claimed there were two bombs on board and threatened to blow up the plane, which she wanted to be diverted to Australia (somehow I doubt one of those "baby" turboprop planes would have actually made it that far ;-)

The woman was initially subdued with the help of other passengers, but late in the flight tried seizing the plane's steering controls.

The two pilots managed to maintain control and safely land the plane, when they were taken to Christchurch hospital. One had severe cuts to his hand, the other an injured foot. It's believed a passenger also suffered knife injuries.

An armed offenders squad stormed the plane, handcuffing the woman at gunpoint and dragging the large woman off the plane. Police and an army bomb disposal team searched the aircraft and luggage for bombs, and evacuated Christchurch Airport.

The woman's behaviour disrupted the travel plans of thousands of travellers around the country, with 2,000 passengers delayed at Christchurch Airport, with inbound flights diverted to Dunedin and other airports until late morning.

The Government and aviation agencies will now review security procedures at regional airports, including the policy of only security screening planes carrying over 90 passengers.

* 3 News - Video: Somali woman charged with hijacking Air New Zealand flight

* Stuff: Mid-air bomb threat, stabbing drama

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