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Sudanese plane hijacked to Libya

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  • Passengers include officials from Darfur's interim government, reporter says
  • Sudanese plane hijacked shortly after taking off from Darfur region
  • Almost 100 passengers and crew were aboard plane
  • It isn't known whether hijacking is related to government gunfight with refugees
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(CNN) -- A Sudanese plane that was hijacked shortly after taking off from Nyala in the country's Darfur region, presumably by rebels, has landed in Kufra, Libya, said Sudan's ambassador to the United States.

"I believe since it started in the sovereign state of Darfur. ... It is more likely something to do with the rebels in that area," John Ukec said.

About 87 passengers and 10 crew members are thought to be on board, Ukec said. It was unclear how many hijackers were on board.

The hijacker or hijackers wanted to land the plane in Egypt, but the Egyptian government refused them permission, Ukec said.

However, an Egyptian civil aviation official disputed that.

"The hijacked plane never entered Egyptian airspace," said Capt. Shirbeeni, the head of Egypt's civil aviation control. "It never requested to land on Egyptian soil. ... We understand that it had a tank that would allow it to fly for four hours. It flew directly toward Kufra."

A reporter from Al-Shuruq, a Dubai-based Sudanese network funded by Sudan's government, said passengers on the plane include some officials from the interim government of Darfur, Sudan's war-torn region.

Libya's state-run Jamahirya television, citing civil aviation sources, reported that the hijacked plane landed in Kufra, in eastern Libya.

"We are in contact with Libyan officials because of this dangerous event," Murtada Hassam Jumaa, an official with Sun Air airlines, told Al-Shuruq. "We want to resolve this situation as soon as we can in a way where we can guarantee the safety of all our passengers."

Asked whether the airline received any threat before the flight took off, he said, "There were no signs of any terrorist or criminal activity on the plane. We checked the plane like we do with all other planes. We followed the regular security checkup. We still don't have any information on what type of weapons were used."

Jumaa also said 87 passengers were on board the plane.

The hijacking follows a Monday attack involving Sudanese government troops at the Kalma refugee camp, 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) from Nyala. It was unclear whether the incidents are related.

The United Nations African Mission in Darfur said the government of Sudan reported that its military and police forces were granted a search warrant for drugs and weapons and raided the camp in executing the warrants. UNAMID said 60 government vehicles surrounded the camp.

The refugees resisted the government's attempts to enter the camp, however, and "the situation escalated into confrontation and exchange of gunfire, with no indication as to who started it." The gunfire lasted about two hours, UNAMID said.

"On the basis of information provided to the UNAMID team while on site, the casualty toll amounted to 64 killed and 117 wounded, of which 49 were evacuated by UNAMID to the Nyala hospital," the organization said in a written statement.

Sudanese military and police were heavily armed, the organization said, but the refugees had only sticks, knives and spears.

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Sudanese security forces reported that they were met by a human shield of women and children, with gunfire coming from behind them, prompting them to return fire.

"UNAMID strongly condemns the excessive, disproportionate use of lethal force by the [government] security forces against civilians, which violated their human rights and resulted in unacceptable casualties," the UNAMID statement said.

CNN's Hosam Ahmed in Cairo, Egypt, contributed to this report.

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