BOGOTA, Colombia – A father in a wheelchair and his son used two grenades to hijack an airliner Monday, but peacefully surrendered five hours later after allowing the crew and passengers, including one American, to leave the plane, authorities said.
The Aires plane, believed to be carrying 20 passengers and five crew, had left the southern city of Florencia (search) when it was commandeered, air force Gen. Edgar Lesmez said. The plane landed in Bogota, its original destination, but at a military airfield next to the civilian El Dorado Airport (search).
After speaking with government negotiators and a Roman Catholic priest while the twin-propeller plane stood on the tarmac, the two hijackers gave up and came down from the plane, said Martin Gonzalez, spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority. The crew also exited, he said.
The two men were arrested and were being questioned by police, said German Navas, a congressman close to the negotiations.
Speaking to reporters at the airport, Navas said the older man in the wheelchair was a former civil servant who said he hijacked the plane because he was angry after not receiving state compensation for an injury. Navas said the hijackers had smuggled two grenades onto the plane.
Shortly after landing in Bogota (search), the hijackers allowed women passengers and two babies to exit the plane and later allowed the remaining passengers off the aircraft while keeping the crew on board.
An American citizen was among the passengers, said a U.S. official in Bogota who spoke on condition of anonymity. Further details on the American were not available.
Also on board was Colombian congressman Antonio Serrano, his assistant, Consuelo Barragan, told RCN television.
Gonzalez, the aviation authority spokesman, identified the hijackers as Luis Ramirez, about 42, and his son Linsen Ramirez, about 22.
They did not appear to belong to any of Colombia's illegal armed groups, said Gen. Alberto Ruiz, chief of operations for the National Police. "They seem to be common citizens," he told reporters.
The drama riveted Colombians, who tuned to radios and TV sets. They listened to one hostage describe the scene in a furtive cell phone conversation with local RCN radio. "They have indicated to us they have explosives," Reinaldo Duque said in a hushed voice from the plane.
Duque, who works in Colombia's Congress, said all the passengers were herded to the rear of the Dash-8 plane while a priest spoke with the hijackers in the front.
Luis Octavio Rojas, director of the Florencia airport, told The Associated Press that the hijacker's wheelchair had been too large to pass through a metal detector and that the man was not patted down by security agents,
"But they did give him and the chair a visual inspection," Rojas said.
It was the second time an Aires flight was hijacked on the same route.
In February 2002, members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia hijacked an Aires plane flying from Florencia to Bogota, forced it to land on a rural highway and kidnapped a Colombian senator who was aboard. Other passengers and the crew were left alone.
That hijacking led the government to cancel peace talks with the rebel group, which has been waging war in this Andean nation for four decades. The senator, Jorge Gechen Turbay, president of the Senate's peace commission, remains a hostage.