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South Africa hostage drama turns out to be drill

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PRETORIA, South Africa (CNN) -- South African police staged a hostage exercise Tuesday, but for a while police spokesmen told reporters it was real.

The spokesmen told news organizations, including CNN, that a man armed with stun grenades was holding nine people aboard a plane at Wonderboom Airport and demanding that the plane be refueled.

Later, National Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi briefed reporters who flocked to the scene and said it was just a drill.

His deputy, Andre Prius, said police had not intended for the media to get involved and did not initially tell reporters about the exercise.

He said that when reporters showed up, police felt they had no choice but to proceed as if the exercise was real.

South African Broadcasting, the nation's public broadcasting network, as well as CNN and local television and radio stations rushed reporters and crews to the airport.

Prius said police spokesmen Anton Breed and Mone van Wyk gave reporters details as if it was an actual attempted hijacking, even describing the would-be hijackers' demands.

Prius apologized to both the local and international news media.



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