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Air Mauritania Hijacking Ends With Passengers Safe, Hijacker Beaten

Incident Comes As Madrid Train Bombing Trial Begins

The hijacking of an Air Mauritania jetliner Thursday ended with the gunman on the floor... apparently with a little help from the plane's flight crew.

BBC reports the incident began shortly after the Boeing 737-400 took off from the capital city of Nouakchott, bound for the northern city of  Nouadhibou. A lone man, believed to be North African, brandished two pistols and demanded the plane be flown to France.

Instead, the plane's flight crew initially attempted to land in Dakhla, in Western Sahara... but they were denied permission to do so by Moroccan authorities. So the crew headed to Gando, a Spanish military base in the Canary Islands.

A source close to the Mauritanian presidency told Reuters when the aircraft touched down, the pilot slammed on the brakes.

"When the pilot landed, he deliberately braked very hard," the unnamed source said. "The man fell to the ground and was jumped on by passengers. He fired two bullets but there are no serious injuries."

"When we landed at Las Palmas ... we entered (the cockpit) and hit him and knocked him down," a passenger told CNN+.

All 71 passengers and eight crew onboard the airliner were freed, with Spanish police taking the hijacker into custody.

Spanish emergency officials say 20 people suffered minor injuries in the melee. There were conflicting reports whether any of those injuries were caused by gunfire.

A definitive motive for the hijacking isn't known... but there are theories. The hijacking occurred the same day a Spainish trial began for 29 people suspected for the 2004 Madrid train bombings.

Reuters also reports in recent days, al Qaeda sent an audio message calling for attacks against Mauritania's rulers.

"I call especially on our people in Mauritania ... to take a sincere Jihadi stand against treacherous rulers who recognised Israel and betrayed the Islamic nation," al Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahr said on the tape, released to Arab media.

FMI: www.airmauritanie.mr/

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