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Morocco Jet Diverted to Spain; Hijacker Gives Up

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From Associated Press

A hijacker seized a Moroccan airliner bound for Tunisia on Wednesday night and diverted it to Spain, but he surrendered peacefully at Barcelona’s airport before dawn today, ending a seven-hour ordeal that began in the skies over North Africa.

The 88 passengers and crew members aboard the Royal Air Maroc Boeing 737-400 filed out the back of the plane into two waiting buses. No one was injured.

Police checked to see whether other hijackers were trying to hide among the departing passengers but it became clear that there was just one suspect, Interior Ministry spokesman Eduardo Planells said.

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The man turned himself in after negotiations, conducted in French, with police in the control tower.

The suspect’s identity and motive were not immediately disclosed, although the ministry said he apparently acted for personal rather than political reasons.

“It seems to be an immigration issue. He wanted to go to Germany,” Planells said.

The plane was hijacked late Wednesday after taking off from Casablanca, Morocco, on a flight to Tunis, Tunisia.

The jet was diverted to Barcelona and landed at El Prat airport, where it was immediately surrounded by security troops.

The hijacker, apparently armed with a pistol, initially demanded that the plane be refueled and flown to Frankfurt, Germany, Planells said.

Throughout the standoff, Spanish Interior Minister Jaime Mayor Oreja was in contact with Moroccan authorities, officials said.

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Spanish airports or planes have been involved in 14 hijackings or attempted hijackings since 1969, the state news agency Efe reported.

The last was in June 1998, when a 43-year-old Spanish man seized an Iberia plane with 130 people aboard while flying from Seville to Barcelona. The hijacker forced the plane to land in Valencia.

A hand-held device he had said was an explosive turned out to be a television remote control, and he surrendered a few hours after talking with his psychiatrist on the telephone.

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