Hijackers Surrender In Libya

TRIPOLI, Libya -- Two hijackers who commandeered a jetliner from Sudan's Darfur region and diverted it to a remote desert airstrip in southern Libya surrendered and freed all hostages Wednesday after a daylong standoff, officials said.

Sudan's consul in the Sahara desert oasis of Kufra, where the plane landed, said the two Darfur men were brought into the dilapidated airport's VIP lounge, looking exhausted. Also freed were crew members who the hijackers had continued to hold even after releasing 87 passengers earlier in the day.

The diplomat, Mohammed Al-Balla Othman said that in the last stages of negotiations, the hijackers were asking for asylum in Libya. It was unclear whether the Libyans granted the request.

Officials said hijackers armed with two handguns commandeered the Boeing 737, carrying 95 passengers and crew, soon after it took off Tuesday from the southern Darfur town of Nyala, not far from a refugee camp that the Sudanese military attacked a day earlier. It was unclear whether the hijacking was in retaliation for that attack.

Passengers said the hijackers identified themselves as members of a Darfur rebel group, which denied involvement.

Officials at the airport in Libya had said the assailants were Darfur rebels, but Murtada Hassan, executive director of Sun Air, which owns the plane, said their motives were personal and that they had no connection with any political or rebel groups.