Attempted Air Algerie Hijacking Foiled

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A man who told passengers his life was wrecked by an earthquake (search) attempted to hijack an Air Algerie (search) jet Tuesday, threatening the crew with what he claimed was a grenade before surrendering to security services.

The 55-year-old man from Boumerdes, a town devastated by the May 21 quake, "said he had lost everything in the quake and no longer wanted to live in Algeria," said fellow passenger Djamel Mohamedi.

The quake killed about 2,300 people and left tens of thousands homeless.

After take-off from Algeria's capital, Algiers, the hijacker demanded that the plane divert to the Swiss city of Geneva (search), the official APS news agency said.

The crew of the Boeing 737, however, convinced him instead to make a scheduled stop at Oran, 280 miles west of Algiers, to refuel and let passengers disembark, the agency said.

There, he surrendered to security services and the attempted hijacking ended "without incident," the agency reported.

Security officials at Oran airport said there were no injuries to passengers or crew.

APS identified the man only by his first name, Brahim, and said he was mentally unstable. It reported that he threatened the plane's crew with a box which he said contained a grenade. It was not clear from the report whether he really was armed.

Mohamedi, the passenger, said he looked nervous before embarking on his hijack attempt -- roughly ten minutes, security officials said, before the plane was due to land at Oran.

APS did not say how many passengers were aboard the flight that was scheduled to fly onward to the French city of Lille. But the short-to-medium range Boeing 737 typically can carry close to 200 people.