N'DJAMENA, Chad – A hijacker seized a Sudanese Boeing 737 carrying 103 passengers and crew on Wednesday and forced the pilot to fly to the Chadian capital, N'Djamena, where he surrendered, officials said.
Saif Omer, Air West airline's managing director, said the man walked out of the plane after it landed in Chad and said he wanted asylum in Britain. No one was injured, he said.
The hijacker walked into the cockpit a half-hour after takeoff and put a pistol to the pilot's head, demanding to go to Chad, Omer said. He made no threats against the passengers, who were Sudanese except for a Briton and an Italian military attache.
"The passengers were unaware that the plane had been hijacked," Omer said.
Details on the hijacker were sketchy; Omer said the man was from Darfur and appeared to be in his mid-30s.
Air West flight 612 had been headed from Khartoum to the western city of El Fasher, said Khartoum's airport manager, Yussuf Ibrahim. Khartoum-based Air West is one of 95 airlines barred from landing at European airports because of its safety record. It is a privately owned company operating domestic passenger services and international cargo charters.
Sudanese officials did not immediately comment on the hijacking, which is likely to further complicate the strained relations with neighboring Chad.
Sudan and Chad trade accusations of supporting each other's rebels, who have mounted increasingly daring attacks on each side of the border. Chadian officials have said Khartoum backed rebels who twice threatened their capital last year, and recently said Sudan's air force had violated their air space.
Khartoum has grown increasingly frustrated with Chadian support for a leading coalition of Darfur rebels. The Darfur rebels met on the Chadian side of the border last week with U.S. special envoy to Sudan Andrew Natsios, who urged them to renew peace talks with the Sudanese government to end Darfur's conflict, which has killed over 200,000 people in the past four years.
"We call on Chadians to refrain from providing assistance to Sudanese rebel groups and honor the bilateral agreements we have signed," the Sudanese army spokesman said earlier this week.
Hundreds of thousands of Darfur's 2.5 million refugees have fled across the border to Chad, where they have increasingly come under attack.
Khartoum opposes a U.N. Security Council plan to send some 22,000 peacekeepers to Darfur. To prevent the general spillover of Darfur's conflict, the United Nations is contemplating sending peacekeepers in Chad and the Central African Republic to monitor the Sudanese border.