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Hijackers surrender plane in Colombia

By wire services
Published September 13, 2005

BOGOTA, Colombia - A father in a wheelchair and his son used two grenades to hijack an airliner Monday but peacefully surrendered five hours later after allowing the crew and passengers to leave the plane, authorities said.

The freed hostages told reporters the elder hijacker said he needed the wheelchair after being hit by a police bullet during a drug raid some 14 years ago and had unsuccessfully sought compensation.

Sen. Carlos Moreno, who helped negotiate the standoff, said that a $43,000 check was handed to the hijacker but that the government would not honor it.

The Aires airliner, believed to be carrying 20 passengers and five crew, had departed the southern city of Florencia when the two men commandeered it, said Gen. Edgar Lesmez, the chief of the Colombian air force. The plane landed in Bogota, the flight's original destination, but at a military airfield next to the civilian airport.

Authorities first identified the hijackers as Luis Ramirez, about 42 years old, and his son Linsen Ramirez, about 22, but later said the elder man's name was really Porfirio Ramirez.

The wheelchair was too large to pass through a metal detector, and the man was not patted down by security agents, said Luis Octavio Rojas, director of the Florencia airport. He said both were given a visual inspection.

Zimbabwe makes it easier to seize land, stop critics

HARARE, Zimbabwe - President Robert Mugabe quietly adopted constitutional changes that make it easier for the state to seize private property and prevent opponents from traveling abroad to criticize his 25-year rule, state radio revealed Monday.

The report said Mugabe signed the amendments into law Friday, the same day the International Monetary Fund deferred a decision for six months on whether to expel the southern African nation.

Past Taliban spokesman released from Gitmo

KABUL, Afghanistan - The Taliban's former ambassador to Pakistan was released from the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Afghan state TV reported Monday as it showed him meeting with an official in Kabul.

Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, who served as the hard-line regime's international spokesman in the early days of the U.S. bombing campaign in 2001, was meeting with the head of Afghanistan's peace and reconciliation commission, Sibghatullah Mujaddedi.

Last month, Afghan and U.S. officials said Afghans in U.S. military custody would be sent back to Afghanistan, where they would be in "exclusive custody and control" of the U.S.-backed government.

The Afghan government has not imprisoned Afghans released from Guantanamo.

Elsewhere ...

TYPHOON HITS CHINA: Typhoon Khanun killed at least 14 people and destroyed 7,500 houses, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Monday. The storm on Sunday tore into Taizhou, about 150 miles south of Shanghai.

NORWAY ELECTIONS: Norway was poised for a power shift after the left-leaning opposition won a majority of seats in Parliament with pledges to spend more of the nation's vast oil wealth on welfare, official election results showed early today. With more than 96 percent of votes counted, a coalition led by the Labor Party had 88 seats, enough to oust the center-right government. Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik said if the final tally confirmed the result, his government would resign.

RIOTS IN NORTHERN IRELAND: Protestant hard-liners rioted in Belfast for a third night Monday.

[Last modified September 13, 2005, 01:46:17]

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