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Ethiopian plane hijacked by students

 

KHARTOUM, Sudan -- Ethiopian students carrying military explosives have hijacked a plane carrying at least 50 people, and flown to the capital of neighbouring Sudan.

Sudanese officials are talking with the hijackers, and one crew member escaped from the plane, Sudanese television reported.

A committee set up by the government to negotiate with the hijackers persuaded them to release five children and six women on board a few hours after the hijacking, Gazi Salahuddin, Sudan's minister of information, said.

Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman told CNN that between nine and 12 students had hijacked the Ethiopian cargo plane, which had been making an internal flight.

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CNN's Catherine Bond: Unrest in Addis Ababa

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Mustafa Osman, Sudanese Foreign Minister: Hostage release talks

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He said passengers onboard the aircraft included a number of children and elderly people. "We are trying to get the hijackers to release children and the elderly," he added.

"The hijackers, they got, military explosive materials, so we are trying our best ...(to) settle the problem peacefully ... Otherwise, the consequence will be bad," he said.

He said the hijackers were requesting that U.S. doctors travel to Khartoum airport where the aircraft landed on Thursday evening.

He said they were also demanding meetings with U.S. and British diplomats.

The motives of the hijackers were unclear, he said. "It may be they are trying to get asylum," he added.

He also said it was not clear whether the hijackers were university or military students.

Sudanese TV said the Sudanese government set up a committee to negotiate with the hijackers "in order to protect the passengers from any harm."

The flight originated in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital, and landed at Khartoum airport at 6:20 p.m., according to Sudanese television.

Police clashed with stone-throwing youths last week in Addis Ababa -- the worst violence in Ethiopia's capital since 1993. At least 41 people were reported killed.

The clashes were apparently sparked by week-long protests by university students demanding greater academic freedom.

On Thursday, Ethiopian officials began releasing hundreds of students who were arrested in the riots. Students have so far refused to return to Addis Ababa University, which reopened on Tuesday.



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