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'Mad Mike' Hoare released from prison

PIETERMARITZBURG, South Africa -- Mercenary Col. 'Mad' Mike Hoare was released from prison Monday after serving part of a 10-year sentence for hijacking a plane to flee the Seychelles islands after a failed bid to topple the government.

The 68-year-old veteran of mercenary wars in Biafra and Zaire, formerly the Belgium Congo, was freed under a general amnesty announced in December by President Pieter W. Botha.

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'I'm glad it's all over,' Hoare said at his home in the Pietermaritzburg suburb of Hilton after his release. 'It has been a terrible strain. I have nothing further to say at this stage.'

Hoare, a former colonel in Britain's Coldstream Guards and the basis for the film 'The Wild Geese,' led 42 men in an attempt in November 1981 to topple the leftist government of President Albert Rene of the Seychelles Islands, located in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa.

Hoare and 38 followers hijacked an Air India airliner when they fled from the main island of Mahe after a gun battle with troops alerted by customs officials who found the mercenaries' Soviet-made AK-47 assault rifles.

Four mercenaries left behind were arrested and sentenced to death, but Rene later pardoned them and they were deported to South Africa.

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South African authorities initially declined to prosecute Hoare and his band after they arrived in the city of Durban aboard the hijacked jet, but the group was summoned to court two months later.

Hoare, who was convicted of hijacking and sentenced to 10 years in prison, testified that senior South African officials knew about the takeover plans and claimed his group's weapons were provided by the South African Defense Force.

He said he had several meetings with the National Intelligence Agency to prepare the operation.

Hoare was the last of the mercenaries to be freed.

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