WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- The cabin crew of an Air New Zealand jumbo jet hit a dynamite-laden hijacker over the head with a whiskey bottle and overpowered him, ending a six-hour ordeal at Fiji's Nadi Airport today.
'The pilot, Captain Graham Gleeson, Flight Engineer Graeme Walsh and the First Officer Michael McLeay -- all New Zealanders -- jumped him while he was speaking over the aircraft's radio to the control tower,' said John Freer, a spokesman for Air New Zealand.
Freer said the man, identified as airport worker Ahmjed Ali, 37, an ethnic Indian, was hit on the head with a whiskey bottle and knocked to the floor. Freer said the man had eight sticks of explosives strapped to his body and threatened to blow up the plane if his demands were not met.
The demands included the release of deposed Prime Minister Timoci Bavadra and the 27 legislators taken hostage in a bloodless coup that began in the capital of Suva May 14 when army officer Lt. Col. Sitiveni Rabuka and 10 armed soldiers burst into the House of Representatives.
The coup appeared to be ending today as Governor General Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau, the Queen's representative in the Commonwealth nation, said he would not swear in Rabuka's government and instead promised to call new elections.
Rabuka, an ethnic Fijian, overthrew Fiji's first Indian-dominated government since the Pacific island nation gained its independence from Britain in 1970. Indigenous Fijians had dominated the government until Bavadra's coalition won an April 11 election.
The hijacking began when Air New Zealand flight TE024 from Tokyo to Auckland, New Zealand, landed at Nadi Airport. Ali apparently joined boarding passengers and told Gleeson the Boeing 747 was being hijacked, taking the dynamite from under his shirt.
The airport immediately was sealed off. The hijacker released the passengers and no one was hurt during the incident.
New Zealand Prime Minister David Lange said New Zealand's elite Strategic Air Services army regiment was put on full alert and the Sydney Sun newspaper said today that SAS troopers were en route to Fiji when the hijacker was overpowered.
The Australian Broadcasting Corp. said Air New Zealand would suspend flights to Fiji until it felt it was safe. Australia's national carrier, Qantas, said it had no plans to suspend its flights to Fiji.